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Sydney’s Steve Ashton and Ro Nixon and Melbourne’s David and Kate Officer are battling for the lead of the 2,260km Frontier Services Classic Outback Trial in almost identical Mitsubishi  Galants at the end of the first day’s competition in the Condobolin area of Western New South Wales today

The NSW crew in their 1972 Galant held a nine second lead over the similar 1970 model Mitsubishi of the Officers after the first three of the event’s 21 timed special stages totalling 80km of competitive driving today, with both crews reporting no problems with their Historic Rally Cars.

That the cars are so closely matched is no surprise: David Officer prepared both in his Melbourne workshop, although he admits to doing a little more work on the brakes of his own car!

In third place, a further nine seconds behind the officers is the vastly experienced Victorian rally crew of Terry Naish and Ross Runnalls in their 1970-model Datsun 1600, with father and son Pat and Bradley Cole 63 seconds back in fourth place in their 1968 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Pagoda, which is a veteran of  many local and international adventure rallies.

However it is the large, red, 1969 Ford Mustang coupe of Michael and Peter Arundel that has been getting most of the applause from spectators for its fifth outright placing in the 35 car field as the crews prepare to head for Coonabarabran and a further four special stages totaling nearly 100km tomorrow.

Despite the Mustang’s bulk and its three-speed automatic transmission, the Arundels are just over two minutes off the Trial lead and ahead of many fancied runners – including two Porsche 911s – in the outright standings.

Tomorrow morning (September 1), the field leaves Gordon Duff Drive in Forbes from 8.00am, with the last car expected to depart by 9.30pm. The first of the Trial cars is expected at the Coonabarabran Show Grounds from 4.45pm, with the last arriving around 6.00pm.

Sponsored by Frontier Services – the organisation founded by the Rev John Flynn (‘Flynn of the Inland’) to assist disadvantaged people living in remote regions of Australia – the Trial is travelling to the Tweed area of northern NSW via Coonabarabran and Glen Innes.

On the way, entrants will compete against the clock over 21 special stages on unsealed forestry roads and private property.  Many of the tracks selected by the Classic Outback Trial have never previously been used for rallying, with up to 40 per cent of the route being competitive on some days.

On arrival in the Tweed area on Friday September 4, entrants will take part in a special night event on the Repco Rally Australia Super Special Stage tarmac course on the streets of Murwillumbah.

The following day, Trial entrants will compete against the clock at full rally speeds over three of the actual unsealed Repco Rally Australia special stages used by competitors in the World Rally Championship, giving then the same unique driving experience as RRA entrants.

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