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Last weekend saw round one of the Queensland Rally Championship staged in the forests of Gallangowan, three hours north of Brisbane. A bumper field of 52 entries tore the forestry stages apart in some of the most adverse conditions competitors had seen in Queensland rallying in a long time.

See photos from the Gallangowan Rally HERE.
A week's worth of rain prior to the running of the event, the dust had well and truly settled and the stages had turned to mud. With already the Kenilworth Rally scheduled earlier this year, that had being cancelled due to the competition roads washed away. The Brisbane Sporting Car Club organisers banded together with not even a hint of dampened enthusiasm, and through sheer determination from everything to, re-routing and directing the stages, and the movement of start and finish controls, the rally was good to go.
The event was staged over 130 kilometres of competitive forestry roads consisting of three stages, run three times. Round One of the Qld Rally Championship saw the debut and a first for Qld rallying, of the all new Hankook Tyres 4WD Unrestricted Class. Across all classes, honours were all at stake to make their mark early, through a battle of raging intensity, including the QRC Championship Series, to the QLD 2WD Series, the QLD Hyundai Rally Series, Clubman and All-Comers.
The heat was on early in the 4WD Unrestricted Class. With the added traction of the 4WD's in the slippery conditions, Paul Williamson in his Mitsubishi Evo 6 was just out in front after three stages with his four closest competitors Adam Stepanoff, John Keen and Shaun Dragona following consecutivley within a second of each other. After six stages Williamson was maintaining his lead of between four seconds to McConkey and just under six seconds to Stepanoff. John Keen's Subaru suffered a puncture in the early stages losing valuable time in limping out of the stage and Shaun Dragona's Subaru WRX faced the setback of a broken front CV.
After the running of the first three stages twice, stage conditions had detiorated significantly and caused the cancellation of SS7 and SS9, leaving only SS8 Traverse suitable as the penultimate and deciding stage. The penultimate battle was fought over the last 24 kilometres with Paul Williamson pushing to the end of the stage by taking the podium in first place as the victor of Round One of the Hankook Tyres 4WD Unrestricted Class with only a margin of five seconds from second and third place getters of Gerard McConkey and Adam Stepanoff. The Black Night Award proudly donated by Pro Street and Panel was awarded to Shaun and Annette Dragona for the unrestricted team that displayed the best never quit attitude at an event. The heated competition of the new 4WD Unrestricted Class is only warming up. With only a gap of eight and a half seconds back to fifth position, this is going to be one hot class to keep an eye on.
Round 1 Hankook Tyres 4WD Unrestricted Class Winners
1. Paul Williamson / Alan Stean  - 1999 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6
2. Gerard McConkey / Ian Swinbourne  - 1995 Subaru WRX
3. Adam Stepanoff / Tristan Dowling - 1997 Subaru WRX STI
This year's QRC Championship Series inspired some new faces to enter the field including Steve Shepheard and John McCarthy in the GSA Suspension / Federal Tyres Mitsubishi Evo 10 and the likes of Ryan Smart behind the wheel in a Datsun 180B SSS. The extremely slippery conditions had everyone on their toes and gritting their teeth. As the stage times came in the competition was tight with the stage conditions worsening keeping everyone on an even playing field even down to the most experienced.
Competitors headed out the service park for the first of the two stages before an optional remote service at Manumbar Hall, then followed by the running of SS3 and upon completion headed back for a regroup. Ryan Smart's rally came to an abrupt halt and ended prematurely without a stage time registered on SS1 with a suspected broken valve spring in the Datsun 180B SSS.
After three stages Marius Swart in his Volkswagen Polo was leading Mark Neary's Subaru by nine seconds and following a further fourteen seconds behind was Peter Roberts. With the running of Special Stages 4,5, and 6 the stage conditions went from bad to worse with intermittent drizzling showers and patchy fog stifling competitors on the consistently rutted and churned up roads. After SS6 the trading of times and positions back and forth the battle for Round One QRC honours was going to be a four way tustle between Roberts leading ahead of Swart, Neary and Shepheard with only a two second margin between first and fourth places.
With the cancellation of SS7 and SS9 due to the degrading stage conditions, the four way fight went right down to the wire in the last  stage of SS8 Traverse with Peter Roberts edging over the line to take out the Round One QRC victory with less than half a second ahead of Marius Swart and Mark Neary in third following half a second behind as well. The completed stage times for Round One QRC has set an extremely exciting precedent for this years series championship. With only three seconds separating the first and fourth positions it will be great to see who comes out on top with their finger on the pulse.
The next Round of the QLD Rally Championship will be held in the Imbil State Forest as a designated round at the prestigious International Rally of Queensland.
Round 1 QRC Winners
1. Peter Roberts / Pip Bennett - 2000 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6
2. Marius Swart / Peta Davies - 2007 Volkswagen Polo
3. Mark Neary / Stephanie Booth - 1994 Subaru WRX
Round 1 QRC Outright
1. Peter Roberts / Pip Bennett - 2000 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6
2. Marius Swart / Peta Davies - 2007 Volkswagen Polo
3. Paul Williamson / Alan Stean - 1999 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6
Round 1 QLD 2WD Series Winners
1. John Black / David Bannister - 1980 Datsun Sunny
2. Phillip Casper / Christopher Hamilton - 1975 Ford Escort
3. Darren Baker / Ron Peters - 1995 200 SX Silvia
Round 1 QLD Hyundai Rally Series Winners
1. Matt Bailey / Andrew Lade - 1998 Hyundai Excel
2. Peter Stewart / John Rutch - 1998 Hyundai Excel
Round 1 QLD Clubman Series Winners
1. Glenn Mitchell / Peter Clydesdale - 1979 Ford Escort MK2
2. Kylie Evans / Tiffany Baker-Schaefer - 2004 Subaru Impreza RS
3. Thomas Dermody / Edmond Hooper - 1989 Toyota Celica GT4

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