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Current Australian Co-driver’s Champion, Dale Moscatt, teamed up with Sydney privateer, David Hills, last weekend as the duo took on the wild roads of the 2006 Toyota Rally of South Australia. The teaming was a one-off between two friends to celebrate Dale’s 150th rally!

With a full season campaign in the Chinese National Championship, Dale hadn’t planned on seeing too many ARC events this season, but it’s hard to keep a good co-driver down and this event was Dale’s third ARC of the five so far this year. The weekend was a last minute plan when Hills’ regular co-driver was unable to attend, but the event has proved beneficial with Dale passing on a few tips that quickly saw David’s times improve significantly, by around a second a kilometre over each repeated stage.

“We had no dramas today,” said Dale, when the team returned to service on Saturday evening. “David got faster and faster as we’ve gone along. He is doing a great job out there in the stages and we haven’t put a scratch on the car to this point. This rally uses a format of repeating several stages which has been great for David to work on trying some new things to squeeze a little more time out of the stages.

“We have spent the day refining the lines you need to use in the fast sections mostly, and obviously as the stages are swept clean, we were trying to make use of those good swept lines,” Dale added. “I think David’s confidence in the notes, and the amount you can lean on the car in those sections, was starting to pay off.”

A clear day and drier than expected conditions for this time of year also meant more competitors kept their cars on the road than in past seasons. This event is possibly the quickest of all the rounds in the Australian championship and often catches the odd driver off guard.

“It is probably the first time I can remember competing down here in warm weather and complete sunshine actually,” explained Dale. “The temperatures have been up as high as the mid twenties (compared to as low as two degrees in 2003). The roads are in superb condition so maybe that is why everyone has stayed on the road today. When the conditions are this good you certainly don’t want to miss any of the fun that we’ve been having out there today!”

Another testimony to the team’s improvement through out heat one was clear in the results. David and Dale were 16th quickest on their first stage for heat one and 10th quickest on the last for that day, improving their time over the Forties stage by 2 seconds a kilometre. They finished 12th overall for heat one, between the more powerful PRC cars of John Murray Junior and Declan Dwyer in 10th and 11th, and Victorian hot shots Justin Dowel and Jesse Robison in 13th and 14th. After 101 kilometres of competitive stages, David and Dale were 7th in Group N and just 16 seconds of an outright top ten placing for the first heat.

Heat two began at the early hour of 6.40am Sunday morning and the Australian Plastic Profiles Group N Lancer was ready to rumble once again over the final 90 kilometres of competition. The stages were again based around the Mt Pleasant Showground’s Service Park to run through the Mt Crawford Forest, Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills, before the 4pm finish line back at Mt Crawford.

The early awakening was compounded by the first stage of the day. The magical Eden High at just over 20 kilometres is the longest of the event. The boys were 13th fastest on this tricky test and again saw their Group N Lancer wedged in amongst the powerful PRC cars. From here it was on to the Cromer stage and a 12th fastest time before heading back to service.

Forties 4, Mt Gawler 2 and Ridgetops 4 make up the mid-morning block of stages and hovering around 12th to 13th place with their times, David and Dale again headed back to service in 12th for heat two so far and 7th Group N.

“To start the day with a blast through the Eden High stage, that averages around 120kph over the 20km is sensational. It is, however, a very tricky stage to get right as the road wiggles between the trees,” said Dale.

“It can be extremely misleading however, as the tree line can quite often lead you astray over the numerous near flat out crests and brows. It has caught out a lot of the big guns in the past and we didn’t take any risks first up, but still managed a good time, and a high smile factor by the finish board,” said Dale enthusiastically.

The final block of stages included the fifth runs of both Forties and Ridgetops and a quick blast of the 11 kilometre Charleston stage, before a regroup heading into the final 3 kilometres at Thunder Gully. “As per our plan we stayed at a neat but swift pace for the first group of stages and upped the ante a little over these middle runs,” said Dale.

“Unfortunately when you go for ‘that little extra’ things can happen and we had a fairly high speed spin in the Mt Gawler stage, but luckily got away with only time loss of around 15 seconds and physically came out unscathed,” explained Dale. “It actually would have sounded great for the spectators some 400m further down the road! We came through a right kink over a slight brow and the car stepped out as I guess it rode over a bump.

“We ended up at 90 degrees to the road at somewhere around 150kph mark, on quite a narrow section of the stage. I’m not quite sure how we got away with it. Even though we were on gravel, the road base is very hard up there and the tyres were howling and screeching for quite a while as we slid all the way to a stop. I’m sure those spectators were waiting to hear a big crash at the end of it all, but thankfully not this time,” Dale said.

With four stages remaining the boys headed out confident of still being able to get into the top ten. However near the end of the first stage of the set the car seemed to lose some power and on the second stage the turbo blew, resulting in David and Dale having to withdraw from the heat. It was a disappointing way to end their weekend but the duo was philosophical. “As they say, these things happen in motorsport.”

All in all it had been a fine weekend in the beautiful Barossa Valley in which Dale had celebrated his 150th event.

“Although we did have some bad luck at the end there, it really has been a great weekend for myself, David and the whole AussieDuct Rally Team. I know the team are very happy with what David and I achieved over the whole week down here.

“Also, the team boss, John Hills (David’s Father) along with his co-driver Mick Tuckey, managed to claim both the Classic and P3 class wins in their mighty BDA Escort in the team colours, so there was still good reason to party on Sunday night.

“On a personal note, it has been a fantastic rally overall and to celebrate my 150th event with all those in the series that have become my friends and family over the years is a memorable event in itself,” said a very happy Dale.

Photo: Joel Strickland

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