The attraction of a new Australian Rally Championship has lured a young Bathurst driver out of retirement and back behind the wheel of a high powered rally car for the Bathurst RSL Rally of Bathurst on May 24 and 25.

The rally will be conducted by AMSAG, as the first round of the new AASA Australian Rally Championship, and the second round of the AussieDuct Southern Cross Rally Series.

Joe Chapman was the winner of the inaugural Search for a Rally Star in 2005, when he won sufficient funds to purchase a Subaru WRX STi fully set up rally car to use in the NSW Rally Championship and other selected events.

A former Bathurst Light Car Club Junior Champion, and a rally competitor since he was 17, Chapman has always dreamt of successfully competing in the adrenalin charged world of the forest racers, but he was to learn the hard way that more was required than just a good car.

"We needed 12 months experience learning how to drive the car. Jumping from a $1500 Datsun 1600 straight into a 4 wheel drive turbocharged car that was first advertised at $55,000 was a big ask, much bigger than I thought," he said.

"Unlike the old Datto (Datsun 1600) you have to learn how to perform the maintenance and set up, which made it difficult.  I guess the real problem was lack of finance to run the car. It was alright to have the car, but running it was something again. It really just put us under enormous pressure."

Now 29, and running his own car repair business, Chapman Automotive, he had his last start in a rally back in 2006, competing in the 2006 Sports Classic Rally, an event in which he was running in the top three, until once again the gremlins got in and he was forced out of the event.

"This AASA ARC looks good, and doing it as an AMSAG rally is smart. I started in my first rally in one of their (AMSAG) events, and they do a pretty good job. One thing about it is that they have fun. The main thing we forgot was to enjoy ourselves, and there again I think it was because of the pressure. We ran it as a business instead of going out to enjoy ourselves."

"But it seems different this time. We are certainly going out to enjoy it, and I won’t be scared to damage the car anymore. It’s just another car in the garage."

"At this point in time, it is only a one off rally. Depending on how we go I'll make a decision on the rest of the series, and if necessary look for a budget. Whatever happens, it costs $5000 minimum per rally to front with this car, and I'm going to be driving to a budget, so at this stage that’s just this one event, the Bathurst RSL Rally of Bathurst.

Chapman is hopeful his father will act as co-driver for the event. John Chapman is a well known figure in Australian rallying as a driver, co-driver and rally director for many years.

"Dad said he would (co-drive) depending on commitments, so I'm hopeful he'll compete. He's never been in one of these hi-tech rally cars in an event, so I think he's keen to have a run. I hope so," Chapman said.

The Chapman Subaru was purchased from Brad Goldsbrough, a former NSW Rally champion, AMSAG Champion and Australian Privateer Champion, who will also be competing in the Bathurst RSL Rally of Bathurst, and like Chapman will be one of the drivers to beat.

During his retirement from rallying, Chapman has taken up another sport. He's now into cycling, and currently it’s BMX racing in which he is in second position in the Masters Cruiser (24" bike) class.

But on the weekend of May 24 and 25, you can be sure Chapman will be 100% focused on the job at hand, throwing the WRX STi around at high speed in search of a podium finish.

The two day event is to be run in the Sunny Corner State Forest and will feature a lengthy competitive distance of 240km with only 140km of liaison stages, and featuring a unique central service with a spectator point at the rear of the service area.

This is a traditionally, tough rally with little relief between competitive stages, and the event organisers have done their utmost to keep the competitive driving and endurance as the focus of the event. Because of its low costs, it has been a great entry level into rallying and has produced several champions, such as Goldsbrough.

Perhaps Chapman should have the final say on his return.

"Yes, we're back - with a point to prove!"

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