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Team Racetune Services finished the recent Sprint Auto Parts Rally SA in second place in the Classic Section for 2WD cars manufactured prior to 1986.  Driving the same 1974 Ford Escort Mk 1 built for this event in 2007, the local crew of driver Reg Marratt and co-driver David Langfield, survived tricky wet conditions in Heat 2 after a strong run in Heat 1. 

Also entered in the P3 category for 1600cc to 2000cc cars, the team finished fourth in Heat 1 and fifth in Heat 2 for a net fourth overall, equal with the Datsun 1600 of Gavin Fowler and Warren Nietz.  The team now moves ahead of Justin Friedrichs (Datsun P510) into second in the SA Rally Championship Classic Section with one round to go.

The event began on Friday night with the now traditional two passes over the spectator-friendly tarmac surface super special stage around Angaston Oval in the Barossa Valley.  With little to be gained and much to be lost on such stages a conservative run saw the team fourth in Classic Section with the Datsun 180B of Neville Whittenbury leading.

Saturday morning began with SS3 Goldfields and the scene of a pace note “mishap” 5km into the stage in 2007.  Revisions to the notes saw the corner successfully negotiated in 2008 but to no avail as the crew soon had to stop at the 7km mark to help put out a fire in the engine bay of the Subaru of Andrew Gooley.  A compassionate time was allocated with no disadvantage to the team.  SS4 Tweedies saw fog in the second half of the stage, but with recce for this stage in 2007 having been done in similar conditions, the crew posted a time only 1.2 seconds behind the Classic Section stage winner Leigh Stokes in another Datsun 180B.

SS5 Biscuits was new for 2008 before a series of familiar stages however the Escort began to show signs of the front brakes binding and therefore slowing acceleration out of slower corners.  Despite this, the team managed second fastest Classic Section stage time in three out of the next four stages.  A strong run on the final stage, SS10 Mt Gawler which includes a very quick downhill tarmac section, saw Team Racetune Services score fastest time of the Classic Section.  This, combined with a slow run by Whittenbury, moved the Escort crew into second Classic car for Heat 1 behind Leigh and Justin Stokes.  Neville Whittenbury and Matthew Monto were third with the Mercedes 280 of Bruce Field and Lyndon Wilson fourth.  Blair Pugh and Glen Martinovich won P3 in a Ford Escort Mk 2 with the Team Racetune Services Mk 1 fourth.

“It was great to win a stage and feels good to be competitive against the Datsuns on gravel roads for a change,” enthused Reg Marratt.  “We were catching Fowler on the tarmac part of Mt Gawler but he was very fair and moved over for us.”

“Apparently they lost 5th gear – 5 gears?  That’s luxury!” he joked.

The major service break late on Saturday afternoon allowed vital work to be done in an attempt to cure the binding brake issues before another two passes over the Angaston Super Special in the dark.  Again the pair finished with 4th place in Classic at the overnight break.

Arriving at the start line for the first “new” stage on Sunday, SS13 Pine Hut,  the crew were suddenly without an intercom.  This was soon revealed to be caused by a loose wire which was hastily poked back into position before a more permanent repair could be performed on the next transport section.  There was more drama on SS14 Pipeline when the Escort’s front left tyre made contact with what looked like a football sized rock during a series of long high speed straights punctuated by large crests.  What should have been a fast section required abnormal caution while Reg evaluated whether the steering had suffered any ill effects, and time was undoubtedly lost with the reduced pace.

“We both saw it there in the corner,” explained co-driver David Langfield.  “We felt the impact and to be honest, I thought we were looking at a repeat of Robertstown where the front right stub axle broke and we lost a wheel!  Fortunately this is one tough rally car and it kept going.”

The next few stages saw Neville Whittenbury establish a lead over Stokes before the latter clawed back nearly 11 seconds on the long SS17 Eden High.  The Team Racetune Services Escort sat comfortably in third, some 30 seconds ahead of Field’s Mercedes.  Or so they thought…

A hail storm greeted the crews in the final service break prior to the last three special stages after lunch.  SS18 Floodways was another new stage and the longest of the event at over 20 km and was to claim several rally cars with wet and slippery conditions which caught out even the best in the field.  Both Super 2000 Toyota Corollas of Neal Bates and Simon Evans spun at a wet hairpin and the stricken Galant of Gary Brown blocked a large part of the road early in the stage.  Although both the crew were OK, Brown’s accident should possibly have seen the stage stopped to clear the damaged car.

An inexplicably slower than expected run in the changing conditions saw the cushion over Field gone and the Mercedes now seven seconds ahead in third.  A charge over the final two stages saw the Escort claw back nine seconds to beat the Mercedes by a mere two seconds.  What seemed to be third soon became second when the news came in that Neville Whittenbury had succumbed to distributor problems and retired after SS18.  Stokes was again the Classic Section winner following Whittenbury’s retirement from what seemed a comfortable lead.  Overall Team Racetune Services were second in Classic Section for the event behind Stokes, and fourth in P3.

The result puts the team into second position in the SA Rally Championship Classic Section on 35 points, 20 points behind Stokes.  With only one round remaining, Southern Rally on

October 26, the team has a mathematical outside chance of winning, given the bonus points available.  P3 honours would now seem beyond reach so the focus is now on the Classic competition.

Team Racetune Services Motorsport would like to thank the many businesses and individuals who have supported the team.  These include Racetune Services, Revolution Racegear

Adelaide, Bob Jane T-Marts Modbury and Marion, Green Welding Specialists, Road & Track Dyno, Heavylec Electrical, Dave’s Dynamic Towing & Transport and of course the dedicated band of volunteers that are the service crew.  A big thank you is also given to the hard working volunteer event officials and organisers.

The Team Racetune Services Escort has carried CanTeen logos throughout the event and the SA Rally Championship in 2008.  We are proud to be raising awareness and funds in support of the vital work done by CanTeen in their support of Young People Living with Cancer.

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