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On  Saturday, June 16, the Goldfields forest tracks of Dunolly and the roads around St Arnaud echoed to the sound of rally cars as 27 crews set off on one of the Historic Rally Association’s most popular yearly events.

The Nightstalker, directed for the last seven years by Dave Smith, is a true test of navigational and driver team skills and is eagerly awaited each year by crews who love a challenge in  the original rally style…a test of man or woman and machine on a night event.

This years’ event returned to a previous format where a Touring Assembly was used in both divisions.

The Dunolly Golf Club was the base for the Nightstalker, and after an extensive plotting session in the club rooms, the crews headed for the forests.

It wasn’t long before the job of negotiating the twisty Goldfields tracks that the Nightstalker is famous for began, and locating the many information boards.

After two competitive sections David Burn/Stephen Dunbar (Galant) led the event with Rob Dyer/Phil Nicholas (Peugeot) and Russell Thorpe/Mark Laidlay (Volvo) not far behind.

As the field made its way to the halfway break at St Arnaud after completing a Touring Assembly, a few changes had taken place on the leader board. Rob Bride/Steuart Snooks (Saab) had moved to third, Kim Harper /Dave Gallacher (Escort) had jumped into the top three in second place, and the Thorpe / Laidlay Volvo had assumed top spot.

The second division for the night started with another Touring Assembly where the speed of the competitors was not the influencing factor, but the ability to find information boards placed along the route was. The Director, Dave Smith, had obtained permission to use several Shire roads in the St Arnaud area as well as lots of tracks running between farm properties, and the enthusiasm shown by local people was evident here as groups lined the roads in places where a little car and mud action was taking place!

There were some awesome roads in this and the following competitives, some of which had been used on a past BP Rally and even a Round Australia event, and the contrast of these roads to the twisty tracks used illustrates why drivers love this event as much as navigators.

A see-saw battle was taking place at the front of the field as the event drew to a close, while further down the field the novice crews battled to keep alert and pick up the major controls, passages and vias after driving for some six hours

It was, in fact, a difficulty in finding one of the last vias that dropped the Kim Harper/Dave Gallacher Escort from first to third place whilst a steadily improving performance during the event from Greg Gibson / Jenny Cole (BMW) saw them take second place.

Great credit must go to the eventual outright winners, Rob Bride and Steuart Snooks in the Saab, who only dropped 29 points for the night.

The Nightstalker is all about finishing, and for everyone the sense of achievement as you drive back to Dunolly and head down the road to the Golf Club is immense.

Dave Smith would like to thank the event sponsor, Tayell Automotive, the hosts, The Dunolly Golf Club, his directing team, all the officials who braved the cold, dust, and mud. A special thank you to the local people of Dunolly and St Arnaud for letting us play in their backyard.

Bring on 2008!   

Check out the Nightstalker Trial photos

Provisional Results
1    Rob Bride / Steuart Snooks        29 points
2    Greg Gibson / Jenny Cole        40
3    Kim Harper /Dave Gallacher        44
4    David Burn / Steve Dunbar        67
5    Russell Thorpe / Mark Laidlay        71
6    David Officer / Kate Officer        94
7    Doug Norman / Rob Knight        118
8    John Pinkerton / Peter Shearman    138
9    Derrick White / Dave Fiddyment    179
10    Dan Murphy / Trevor Harvey        204

(Full results at www.hra.org.au )

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