Murramarang Eco-Point Bay Stages Rally is always an event full of surprises. Last year it saw a pivotal moment in the RaceBrakes Sydney NSW Excel Series, with championship contenders falling by the wayside.
 
Unlike last year, the 2009 Murramarang Eco-Point Bay Stages started with warm, fine weather and a slight-to-moderate breeze. Perfect conditions for rallying. Seven Excels represented the series. Title contender Dave Roberts and navigator Kate Murphy were ready for competition, which was better than Fro Horobin/Kirrilee Gentleman, with Fro having been ill in the days preceding the event, and the car having suffered an under bonnet BBQ prior to the event. All repairs having been undertaken, Horobin was still apprehensive heading into the event.
 
Slightly further back was newcomer to the RaceBrakes Sydney Excel series Adrian Coppin with father Phil Coppin sitting alongside. Going up against Adrian would be Bob Slattery in another yellow Excel, with co-driver Matt Want. Rick Gray and Steve Hodgkin would also be keen to get in the mix, having had some driving tuition from Rick Bates to help improve his pace. Excel veterans Andrei Artomonov/Glen Bonch and Peter Haggstrom/Bek Flett filled out the Excel field. Despite putting in an entry, Excel regulars Matt and Ben Cullen weren't able to get their Excel ready in time, and ended up competing the event in Ben's Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, ruling them out of contention for points at this round.
 
The event started with the 14.42km Runnyford South Stage, and Horobin surprised himself by taking a 5 second advantage over Roberts. But in the second stage (Farmers Run - 25.67km), Roberts pulled back 3 seconds on Horobin. And on SS3 (Old Shannon - 8.83km) Roberts took 7 seconds from Horobin, giving Roberts a 5 second lead as they arrived at service. It wasn't a good start for Slattery, however, who suffered clutch dramas in the first stage, dropping time to the field and limping through to the service with an ailing car. Also to suffer in the first loop of stages was Haggstrom, who withdrew at the service break.
 
After the service break was the flowing Old Bark stage (14.1km), which had thick bulldust covering the surface for the last 5kms of the stage. Horobin struck back, taking the Excel lead again by 3 seconds over Roberts. The 9.85km River Road North was next, and Roberts narrowed the gap down to 2 seconds, despite having suffered some brake issues going into the final stage of the Excel event. But Roberts had proved too much pressure for Horobin/Gentleman in the final stage, the 32.42km Western Distributor. Feeling the pressure, Horobin made a mistake, having a huge spin and losing 45 seconds to Roberts/Murphy. Adrian and Phil Coppin had a great debut event in the RaceBrakes Excel Series, and despite some teething issues, claimed third Excel for the event.
 
The RaceBrakes Sydney Excel Series now heads to Port Macquarie on 28 November for the 2009 Bago Rally. Points are tied for the drivers title with Dave Roberts and Fro Horobin each on 80 points, and Andrei Artomonov still a mathematical chance for the title on 64 points. It's sure to be an interesting event to watch.
 
As always, all the competitors involved would like to thanks the generous series sponsors:
RaceBrakes Sydney
Motographics
Rallyschool.com.au
Hyundai Genuine Spare Parts
Gary's Motorsport Tyres

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