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On May 23 the forests around Canberra roared to life with the sound of rally car action as Round 3 of the PCD Engineering ACT Regional Rally Series was contested along the high speed forest tracks of Mt Stromlo and Tidbinbilla.  The Appliance Installations Stages attracted 33 cars ranging from turbo 4WD Mitsubishi’s and Subaru’s through to super competitive Datsun 1600s and Hyundai Excels.  

The cars were flagged away from the start at the Weston Club by Alistair Coe, MLA and within minutes dust started flying from the forest beside the Tuggeranong Parkway. Neal Bates, Australian Rally Champion, teamed with son Harry set the pace in the first two stages.  The pair retired at the end of the second stage – which was enough to whet Harry’s appetite for rallying.

After two stages near Stromlo the rally travelled west to the forests near Tidbinbilla.  Stage three, the longest of the event, included the infamous Mineshaft and tested cars and their crews.  One particular corner caught out the majority of crews and many stories were exchanged of near roll-over experiences as the drivers misread the severity of the turn and collided with the unforgiving embankment on the exit of the corner.

Half way through the event, the competition for the outright lead was split between three crews.  Michael Barrett and Tim Batten, Mark Sessions and Matthew Harriott, and five times ACT champion, John Stilling and Thomas Barrett, all driving Mitsubishi Lancers.
Only seconds separated the three teams after four stages.  An impressive run through stage five by Barrett and Batten saw them extend their lead to 30secs over Sessions and Harriott.  With five stages remaining, both Sessions and Stilling drove hard in an attempt to rein in the Barrett/Batten Lancer.  

At the finish, only 52secs separated first to third after 145km of competition.  Barrett/Batten held onto their lead to win, followed by Sessions/Harriott then Stilling/Barrett.

Further back in field the competition for Clubman and Novice championship points was hotly contested.  David Boyd and Sam McMahon drove their Datsun Stanza well to hold off a fast finishing Celica GT4 driven by Richard Troup and Russell Hannah.  For newcomers to rallying, the Novice category provided plenty of sideways action for the spectators and had nine crews competing in the series.  In the end, Damien Powell and Kirrilee Gentleman steered a Hyundai Excel to secure maximum points for the round.

All crews, whether they finished the event or not, agreed that the organisers had constructed a tough demanding technical course which tested crews and cars to their limits.  Teams now have only a fortnight to repair their cars before Round four of the PCD Engineering ACT Regional Rally Series at Bega on the June long weekend.

Photo: Kristen McCarthy

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