The 2006 Queensland Rally Championship came to a close on Saturday, November 4 with the running of a wet ‘Recovered Resources Australia Rally’ in the forests west of Gympie.

The event was the sixth round of the City Subaru Queensland Rally Championship, fourth round of the City Subaru Clubman Rally Championship and the sixth and final round of the Silverstone Competition Tyres Gemini Rally Series.

It was also the wettest weekend in recent history with rain that caused a shortening of the route and a minor flood through the service park, making it very uncomfortable for support crews who were forced to roll around in the mud.

For the first time in many years, the QRC was destined not to finish at the respected Gallangowan oval but the Widgee Oval – home of the Rally HQ and main service area.

Clerk-of-Course for the event was Steve Davies, who was supported by the usual crew of old heads from the Brisbane Sporting Car Club. A healthy field of 51 cars and crews were listed, including 28 for the full QRC over 128 kilometres and 23 more who chose to run the Clubman route over 88km.

All eyes were on the top two cars of Steve Shepheard/Tom Smith (Evo 6) and Glenn Brinkman/Steve Richardson, who had entered a newly acquired Evolution 5 for this final round. Effectively, the QRC title came down to this round with Brinkman ahead on points.

There was much speculation surrounding the outcome of a protest lodged by the Shepheard camp after the previous round. The matter was not heard until the Wednesday of the week prior to this event, and stewards are waiting to reconvene to decide on an outcome.

With the former Subaru driver in the ex-Mark Thompson, ex-Chris Atkinson Evolution 5 (which ironically originated from the George Shepheard workshops) the top four cars were similar Evolution Lancers. Coffs Harbour young gun Nathan Quinn was seeded highly at car 5 in his neat RX2, and he had the vastly experienced Tony Best alongside for this event.

Rod Biggar/Paul Young replaced their 180B SSS with the team’s spare 1600 when the SSS developed engine troubles the day before the rally. Col Hunter in the Jeep Wrangler had Margot Knowles in the left hand seat, Ralph French/Scottie Beckwith were back in the WRX and Erik Johnsson/John McCarthy debuted their newly acquired ex-Mel Both WRX Subaru.

At car 29 the Clubman field was led by Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle in the Datsun 240K, with Craig and Linda Newell showing their new Honda Civic EK ‘Pocket Rocket’ and most appropriately, Peter Stringfellow’s Stanza, entered under ‘PJ’s Inheritance’ – in recognition of what co-driver son Peter (Jnr) was not going to be able to enjoy in later life!!

With a compact 128 kilometres in eight competitive stages to be run, the event kicked off at the legendary Roadcraft Driver Education Centre for a 1.31km blast over a sealed loop with a bit of forest at the end.

With the field heading over the ARC ramp just prior to starting the stage, an assembly of spectators braved the damp weather to get an eyeful of the cars going quite sideways on the wet concrete surface.

Brinkman, whose team had virtually reassembled and rebuilt the car in the previous week, quickly came to grips with the Lancer and shared the stage win with Paul Andrews/Del Garbett (Evo 6). Bernie Graf/Cameron Thompson were two seconds back and a further two away was Shepheard/Smith.

The 400 metres of gravel at the end of the short stage suggested that the forests would likely be slippery if any rain had fallen. A quick tyre change was allowed before the road section which took the field out to the roads of Kandanga, familiar to those who had run the ARC – but used in a new format. The short heart-starter ‘Bellbird’ over 5.71km saw Shepheard take back a couple of seconds, but the roads were quite dry and quick, causing no dramas for the drivers. Terry Smith/Will Kirkbride had the honour of recording the first retirement with radiator damage to their Celica GT.

Onto the first long stage ‘Glastonbury’ (17.19km) and with warnings of some slippery patches, the field headed out. ‘Slippery’ was an understatement for the conditions in a couple of places where the top road surface had become very slimy and lacked any grip at all.

Notwithstanding, Shepheard stayed on the pace he was comfortable with and took a strong win, pulling 30 seconds from Andrews and nearly a minute on Brinkman, Quinn (who was brilliant in the wet) and Graf. Dave Grundy/Greg Donald had engine problems in the Corolla.

SS4 ‘Brooyar’ was next and Shepheard increased his lead. This stage was quite dry but a wet loop of about 3 kilometres was deleted under instruction from the trio of zero cars. A long liaison followed out through the town of Kilkivan to SS5 ‘Blacksnake’ over 21 kilometres.

The stage had not been used for years but the general feeling was that if the Clerk-of-Course sent everyone out there, it must have been worth it. The result was affirmative, with the stage mostly dry with a few exposed bony rocks – but eminently driveable.

Andrews scored the stage win by a single second over Shepheard, who was taking it very easy on ‘wet’ tyres to avoid punctures. The results record more DNF’s for Glenn Mitchell/Bryan Zelinski (broken throttle cable), Craig and Linda Newell (no lights), Ian and Bryan Armstrong (Gemini) and Allan Reinnikka/Tanya Taylor (KB Laser).

A different version of the Glastonbury stage was next on the agenda, but even the course cars found it difficult going in their off-road 4WD vehicles and a decision was taken to cancel the stage in the interests of safety. Had a car gone off over the edge, it would have difficult to get the recovery vehicles in, let alone get the rally cars out!!

The field was then re-directed to the Widgee Oval where a longer service and short re-group awaited. This was the end of the event for the Clubman and Gemini fields who unfortunately only managed five stages (including Roadcraft) for their event.

Official results show Gary Stacey/Tony Blackshaw (Datsun Sunny) taking a dominant win and ending their brilliant year on a high. They held off Dave Ovenden/Cate Kelly (RX2) and Allan Clunes/Gavin Weiland(Mazda 323 GTR) to not only win the class but the Clubman series for 2006.

In the Gemini series, it was a punishing performance by Jamie MacFarlane/Larissa Skyring who won the category by seven minutes, and in doing so clinched the Gemini Series title for 2006. Jamie has sold the faithful red car and will next be seen in a V8 Commodore.

Only two stages faced the assembled throng in the night time, and the QRC field returned to ‘Blacksnake’ for another attempt at the stage. While waiting for the stage to be ‘greened’ it started to drizzle and by the time car one was in the stage it rained, and rained and rained.

Shepheard drove hard with a fogging windscreen and diminished visibility, concerned that his main competitors may end up with a dry run and take away all of the lead.  He need not have worried as it transpired, as the majority of the field experienced similar conditions. Nonetheless, he impressed with a fine stage win, taking over a minute from Andrews and nearly two from Brinkman.

A re-run of Brooyar was scheduled to finish the event but on arrival the field was met with solid, and increasing rain. The Course Checker, Iain Stewart wanted another 10-15 minutes before proclaiming an end to proceedings.

A run back to Widgee followed where the cars once again crossed the ARC ramp and tried to park in the centre ring of the oval without destroying the muddy field.

The event was called and Shepheard/Smith had done enough to clinch another win, their fourth outright victory of the year. Paul Andrews/Del Garbett took a fine second with Glenn Brinkman/Ste ve Richardson finishing third in their first event in this car.  In doing so, the points-table will see them at the top of the ladder and show them as provisional Queensland Rally Champions for 2006.

Fourth outright and first in class was a fantastic performance by Nathan Quinn/Tony Best. Quinn has inherited the driving skills of dad Martin, and in a 2WD car finished much higher than expected in the conditions.

Rounding out the top five in what has also been a fairytale year were Colin Hunter/Margot Knowles in the off-road Jeep Wrangler.

While the weather proved a Godsend to the populace of south-east Queensland, it certainly dampened the rally but the overall event was very well received by all.

The local Sunshine Coast media followed the event, Roadcraft has committed to being involved in 2007 with more promotion and the Widgee custodians enjoyed their best bar takings for years!!

Thanks to the willingness of the officials and volunteers who sat out in the rain for hours, the event was run and won.

Provisional Results
1.    Steve Shepheard/Tom Smith, Evo 6 Lancer, 56:10
2.    Paul Andrews/Del Garbett, Evo 6 Lancer, 57:58
3.    Glenn Brinkman/Steve Richardson, Evo 5 Lancer, 59:31
4.    Nathan Quinn/Tony Best, RX2 Mazda, 59:53
5.    Col Hunter/Margot Knowles, Jeep Wrangler, 61:09
6.    Bernie Graf/Cameron Thompson, Evo 5 Lancer, 61:35
7.    Gary Stacey/Tony Blackshaw, Datsun Sunny, 63:25
8.    Ralph French/Scott Beckwith, Subaru WRX, 63:30
9.    Dave Ovenden/Cate Kelly, RX2 Mazda, 64:54
10.    Allan Clunes/Gavin Weiland, Mazda 323 GTR, 65:19



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