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One of the crews favoured to take victory in the Bathurst RSL Club Rally of Bathurst on May 16 and 17, is a former winner of the event, Gareth Morgan-Thomas of Bathurst and his Sydney co-driver, Matt Ruggles.

The two day event that will start and finish in Bathurst, is the second round of the 2009 Pipe King Southern Cross Rally Series run by the Australian Motor sport Action Group (AMSAG), with Dave Aitchison as rally director.The event will cover 230 kilometres of competitive roads within the Sunny Corner State Forest, east of Bathurst.

Morgan-Thomas won the Bathurst RSL Rally of Bathurst in 2004 driving a 5 litre V8 Holden Commodore, and finished a close second in that year’s Southern Cross Rally Series, as he had done the previous season, 2003.

“You could say we lost that 2004 championship by only three seconds, because that was what we were beaten by, in the final round at Port Macquarie. We were beaten by a lack of tyres,” Morgan-Thomas said.

He sold his Commodore a short time after the 2004 series, and last year purchased a 1996 Subaru WRX STi that had won the 2004 Victorian Championship.

“It is unbelievable the difference between the Commodore and the WRX. The WRX is a maintenance intensive car, and you must spend many hours working on it between events, whereas the Commodore would seldom need a spanner on it.”

“I really enjoy driving it (Subaru) though, and have done a lot of testing to get the Commodore driving style out of me, like learning how to back off a lot more.”

In the recent Jenolan Forest Rally, the opening round of the Pipe King Southern Cross rally Series, the Bathurst Good year store proprietor drove the WRX with Ruggles as co-driver, and had computer and horsepower issues, which caused the car to drift wide on corners .

“It gave us four hectic moments, and unfortunately, the fourth time we went too wide and clouted an embankment which put us out with a broken shock absorber and rear suspension – I guess I was really overdriving, given the cars problems,” he said.

The over-subscribed Jenolan Rally saw Morgan-Thomas start favourite, but with his dramas and subsequent retirement, victory went to defending Rally of Bathurst and Southern Cross Series champion, Brad Goldsbrough. The Sydney driver was fastest on every stage, and has not lost an AMSAG rally since 2007.

Unfortunately Goldsbrough will miss this years Bathurst Rally, for he has taken up an option to compete in an event in New Zealand the same weekend. Surprisingly, Morgan-Thomas said it was disappointing Goldy would be missing from the Bathurst rally.

“He’s at the top of his game at present, but I watched him in the Jenolan, and he’s beatable. I absolutely can win Bathurst, but I’d rather win it with him (Goldsbrough) in it,” he said.

“I haven’t seen the field as yet, so I’m not sure who will be the main opposition. I guess young Chris Schofield will be tough if he competes. He’s very fast and lives in the rally’s backyard at Sunny Corner.”

Morgan-Thomas said he was pleased to have Ruggles – a very well known motor sport identity, with him this year.

“Last year my navigator got car sick really bad, and as his (Ruggles’)own car was being rebuilt, he agreed to drive with me. He will do the full series, which is great news for he is very experienced,” Morgan Thomas said.

The Bathurst RSL Rally of Bathurst will start from the Bathurst RSL Club on Saturday morning May 16 from 8.30am, and then heads straight to the Sunny Corner Forest.

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