The name Bathurst is synonymous with motor sport, particularly with the Bathurst 1000 on October 10, but this weekend it will also play host to the fifth round of the NSW Rally Championship, where a 35 year old Penrith driver is among favourites to take outright honours.

The Peter Rogers Real Estate Bathurst State Rally has attracted the strongest field of the 2010 championship thus far, and see Cambridge Gardens primary school teacher Jamie Neale swap his chalk and blackboard for a high powered all wheel drive turbo charged rally car chasing success in one of the toughest rallies on the calendar.

Neale is a second generation rally driver, the son of Fank Neale who was extremely successful in rallies at international, state and club level for many years, and still competes occasionally whilst nurturing the careers of Jamie and younger son Gavin.

This weekend Jamie will drive his Mitsubishi VR 4 with 27 year old Matt James, and extremely experienced co-driver who also drives his own Ford Escort when not competing with Neale.

The rally will start at 10.30am from the Bathurst Court House after the cars will have been on display since 8.00am, and then the first special stage will be the Hen and Chicken, possibly the fastest in Australia.

After Hen and Chicken, there will be a special spectator stage at the BLCC Motorsport Park near the Waste Management Centre, and from there it is the infamous 17 klm Mount Horrible stage, the first time it has been used in almost 40 years.

Used for international rallies in the 60’s, the extremely dangerous and treacherous Mount Horrible had a big reputation, and ironically during its ‘glory days’ the majority of Saturday’s field would not have been born.

Neale’s father has won a Mount Horrible stage, and has pre-warned Jamie of its dangers ahead of this weekends event.

“I haven't competed on Mt Horrible but Frank (father) says it's a great stage, though dangerous in a modern 4wd car. Quite possibly very fast and the drops on the outside of corners will be steep,” Jamie said.

“I think we can run strong this week. The car is improved and I can't wait to get back behind the wheel. I'm comfortable in the car, it's old but it's good. I want to win the rally- we've waited 5 years for this opportunity. The Peter Rogers Bathurst Rally is a traditional event, it has a heritage and therefore is prestigious. The Series points are relatively unimportant- the event stands alone.

“The car is extensively modified, the most significant is a Rallyequip designed dog-engagement gearbox and associated electronics which enables me to 'flat change' every gear. I only use the clutch to take off, and left-foot brake constantly. The car as a result requires a lot of brakes, and luckily Mark and Shane and Penrith Brake and Clutch have taken care of that. Best of all, the cost to build and maintain it is approx 1/4 of the cost of the 'brand name' racing products which the factory teams use.

“The engine is built and tuned by my younger brother Gavin at Rallyequip- Pendle Hill, with technical support and assistance from my childhood mate Scott Kuhner at Insight Motorsport- Arndell Park. Fast Eddy Aitchson from Penrith City Exhaust makes and designs the dump pipe and exhaust, as well as key underbody protection,” Jamie Neale said.

Likle his father before him, Neale has an impressive record, and has won four State Championships , and a great record in the Bathurst area, having won 3 rallies in Sunny Corner. He is currently 7th in the state championship but leading the NSW 4WD Clubman after an inconsistent year to date.

He considers his greatest threats at Bathurst will come from current championship leader John Mitchell in an ex-Ordynski factory Mitsubishi Evo 7 or second placed Peter Roberts in his Evo 6.

For the future he is looking at competing in the Australian World Rally Championship round in September next year in a Mitsubishi Evo 9.

“It's difficult, I have some components already to go into the new car but with build costs in excess of 130K we really need to find an Evo7 or 8 we can up-spec the Evo9 running gear into it.

“Japanese driver (3 times Japanese champion) Osamu Yamaguchi has given me an Evo 7.... the problem is it's been heavily rolled and is in Japan. I'd be lying if I said I haven't had the calculator out a few times and counted the cost. Rallying is not cheap any way you look at it, especially in the latest model cars.

“The older VR4 allows us to have 99% of the performance at 1/5th of the cost but is ineligible at any level above state. I've got no doubt that the people who support me would give me a great car for the WRC, it's just all comes back to how much money it takes to make it happen. I can't justify 130K on a rally car...

Free spectator guides are available from Peter Rogers Real Estate in Howick Street, 2BS in George Street or at the start on Saturday.

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