Fan view: who’ll win this weekend’s Quit Forest Rally?
- 22nd April 2016, 12:28am
What is so interesting about the Australian Rally Championship in 2016? Rally fan, Justin Northage, delves into this weekend's Quit Forest Rally and predicts his top five finishers.
The most obvious first point is that the formula for outright eligibility in the ARC has changed this year. For some years only 2WD vehicles were eligible for outright honors. This was an attempt to encourage manufacturers into the sport, and to limit the costs of developing cars, so that cost of entry to the sport would be lower. There are many views on how successful this was, so I won't discuss it further here.
Now that 4WD cars are eligible for outright ARC honors again, Subaru has returned to the ARC, and Molly Taylor is driving their sole entry, which is built by Les Walkden Rallying. Les has built many championship-winning cars in the past, and we know that Molly will have a vehicle beneath her which will be the envy of the field (with a few possible exceptions discussed in a later article).
Anyone who has followed Molly's career knows she is a seriously quick driver with an amazing international career, certainly capable of beating many of the top Australian male drivers given the right machinery. Last year she won a heat of the WA round which was history making, and we know the car she drove was very likely inferior to some of her competition at the time. It's the fact that she is a genuinely capable driver that gives her the respect from the mostly male competitors and the support of many keen fans.
Simon Evans is a four time Australian Rally Champion with a great reputation for being able to extract every last ounce out of any car he is driving. Like a lot of people famed for sheer pace, he has been known to overdo things and damage the car occasionally.
In 2015 he had some very tight battles with his brother Eli in what I suspect was a slightly inferior car (certainly reliability wise). This resulted in at least one retirement due to an accident, but also meant some awe inspiring displays of FWD driving by Simon, Eli and some of their competition.
Time will tell if Simon can be subjected to as much pressure by his competition this year. His car sticks out due to how old it is, and the fact it is in PRC specification, but this could be an advantage over some newer cars which may be heavier.
Harry Bates must rate as someone of interest, and this is his first shot at the WA event after entering most of the ARC rounds last year. Even if he wasn't a serious competitor, people would be interested just to see if he has inherited the 'rally master' genes exhibited by his father. For those already watching his performances last year, Harry appears to have real potential. No doubt some will be asking if he has enough capability to rise beyond the dominance of national events into international realms (something Eli Evans is looking to do this year after winning three Australian Rally Championships).
Harry's first vehicle could not be described as outright competitive, but he managed to produce results way above the car’s capability, and his competitive experience level. I'm not party to how many practice kilometres he's done (maybe a lot more than most), but his competition experience is certainly way less than his rivals in this event. He's driving an S2000 car that has pros and cons I hope to discuss another time.
Justin Dowel (another ARC champion) is entering his new Hyundai Proto car. This is built to Australian G4P regulations and may prove to be a serious outright contender as it should be on the weight limit with a powerful engine. New cars are notorious for being unreliable, but the mechanicals in this car should all be proven components. He's certainly a dark horse in this event if the car makes the distance.
Tom Wilde is seeded third in another modern Subaru STi. He will certainly be at home on the roads, and has been dominant in the past amongst the state competitors.
Mark Pedder is also driving an interesting vehicle in the Peugeot 208 Maxi car. It has had its share of issues with reliability. In the Scouts Rally SA 2015, he was on a pace slightly slower than Harry Bates S2000. The off-season may have provided additional testing and more pace.
There are many other drivers of interest, but I'm out of space for the moment.
For those interested, it turns out that G2 and 2WD PRC cars are still in outright contention for the ARC. There is also a separate 2WD ARC competition (with a trophy) in which PRC and G2 cars can compete. Looking at the WA entry, however, not a single G2 or PRC 2WD is entered in the ARC portion. The rule changes have all but removed the 2WD cars.
There are several Classic 2WD cars that compete in their own championship.
Another fact I find interesting is that half of the 18 car ARC field are Subaru WRX STIs - and there is not a single 4WD Mitsubishi Evo in the Quit Forest Rally.
Going out on a limb - my predictions of results for the Quit Forest Rally 2016
Foolish as it seems, I'm going to have a go at predicting the result of this event - if only to provide amusement for people after it’s over. With so many competitive drivers in totally unknown cars this is very difficult, but that's what makes it all the more interesting
1. Simon Evans - I predict Simon will be dominant, and therefore not pushed to the limit. I'm betting they have gone for proven components so I think the car will get all the way to the end - 1st
2. Harry Bates - I know he's meant to be being careful and it’s his first time on the roads, but I've got a feeling he will be quick from the get go. The lighter weight S2000 may also be a good machine in WA (a rally I'm no export on) - 2nd
3. Tom Wilde - Tom could easily outdo this position, and by all accounts his car and previous experience should put him second. My guess is - 3rd
4. Molly Taylor - She's got the experience and now the car. It's still a big step into a much heavier and more powerful machine for Molly, so some adjustment will be required. Steady as she goes - 4th
5. Justin Dowel - New car could mean some 'on event' development takes the edge off the potential here. May peak in later events. My guess - 5th
- Justin Northage
About Justin: I'm a pretty keen rally addict. I love to watch, talk about, analyse and compete in rallying. Like many people I don't compete as much as I'd like. Finally I have given in to my urges to have a go at writing some of the things I am thinking, in the hope that some people will enjoy it.
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