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The Bega Valley Rally 2009 was run on Sunday, June 7 on forestry roads south of Eden on the far NSW south coast. The rally was a combined round of the Victorian, ACT and NSW Rally Championships and attracted a strong field of 78 competing crews from all three states. It was also a round of the Excel series.

Nigel Shellshear and Paul Fletcher (both of NSW) entered the 2009 Bega Valley Rally starting in road position of Car 33 in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 3. Being their first Bega Rally, the pair really hoped to finish the event and be inside the top 10 NSW crews in order to gain valuable points towards the NSW championship.
 
Mark Fawcett led the field away from Bega at 8.45am in Car 1 and commenced  the 92km long transport south through Eden to the first competitive stage of Stoney/Timbillica 1. This stage was 44.55km long with a mix of tight and twisty roads, opening to faster open roads before tightening up again. It was a sensational mix of roads all in very good condition and with virtually no or very little dust. Lots of RGL and RGR mixed in with a couple of RGL into a TL at T kept all of the crews on the ball.

Forsberg took the win in SS1 with a narrow lead of seven seconds from Robison, followed by Sessions, Croker and Reeves.  Shellshear put in a creditable eighth outright in the first stage from his road position 33.

After the first service / refuel point, the crews headed north to Nullica Road and the SS2 of Old Hut Creek West, a 24.75km stage. This was another great stage which was slippery in places due to some fresh grading by the Forestry Department and a couple more turns off the main road to keep the co-drivers awake. The stage win was taken by Croker followed by Sessions, Robison, Forsberg and Fawcett. As the pace hotted up, Shellshear slipped to 10th place after this stage.

The crews then headed back south towards Upper Kiah and SS3, Mustering Ground 13.65km. The stage was a short blast with a rocky causeway midway through at 6.05km. For some crews the weather let go with a heavy shower midpoint through the stage making road position more critical. Some hail was reported by some competitors.

Croker again took the stage win from Robison, Forsberg, Fawcett, Nutter and Stewart (in the Datsun 1600) sharing fifth position in this stage.

It was back to Service / refuel 2 with a chance for crews to repair damage from the first three stages, get some new tyres and prepare themselves to tackle the repeat run of the 44.55km Stoney/Timbillica 2. As we looked south from the Service Area, we could see black clouds forming over parts of the second rerun of this stage. It was looking dark and possibly wet.

The rerun of SS1 as SS4 was entirely different the second time round. We arrived at the start of the stage just as our due time was coming up – phew, that transport was a little tight! It looked like the front runners did not get the same advantage with the weather on this second time through as the rain had affected some parts of the stage – hopefully this would level the playing field for us mid-fielders. 

By the start of this stage, Shellshear had slipped to 13th place and if we were to achieve the top 10 goal, it was time to pull the finger out and get stuck in to whatever awaited us in the next 44.5km.

The road conditions were more mixed this time round with some parts of the stage still dry, some corners quite wet and muddy and some in between and only slightly damp. It was hard to read the road and some corners as the light was fading and with the darkness descending on the forest. Croker, Robison and Forsberg again dominated this stage taking the top three placings. Shellshear got stuck into the stage and pulled his position back to seventh place after a great stage in fairly difficult road conditions. In the process he caught, and overtook, Car 32 about 4 km from the end of the stage. Thank goodness for no dust!

A final service and then it was off to the final stage SS5 Broadwater North which was 14.40km in length. This was a great blast to the finish with some tight, winding sections of the road to test crews as they balanced speed and successfully bringing their vehicles to the finish back in Bega. Unfortunately the team of Robison and Wright went off in this stage which ended their rally, after serving up an excellent challenge to Croker and Forsberg.

Shellshear balanced this final stage well and maintained sufficient speed to bring his car home in sixth outright position overall (4th NSW crew). This was a great result for our first Bega Valley Rally and also gains us valuable points in the NSW Rally Championship after the first two events of the series.

We are now looking forward to the next round at Myall Lakes in Buledelah NSW where I am sure there will be plenty of “scrapping” going on in what promises to be a very fast pace noted event.

Full marks to the organisers for keeping their heads in what became a disappointing outcome when they found out they could not fulfil the requirements to enable the use of the shire roads in this year’s rally. The organisation was otherwise faultless, the road book was accurate (shock!) and Bega forest roads are simply great. We’ll be back in 2010.


Final outright results for NSWRC

1. Croker / Croker – Mitsubishi Lancer
2. Forsberg / Whybern – Mitsubishi Lancer
3. Murray / Ferme – Subaru WRX
4. Shellshear / Fletcher – Mitsubishi Lancer
5. Amos / Gillis- Mitsubishi Lancer

Final outright results for VRC

1. Fawcett / Morris – Subaru WRX
2. Allan / Allan – Subaru Legacy
3. Lee / Lethlean – Mitsubishi Lancer
4. Nutter / Taylor – Subaru WRX
5. Martin / Martin – Subaru Impreza WRX

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