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The local battle for state supremacy picked up where it left off in 2006, with Steve Shepheard/Tom Smith and Glenn Brinkman/Steve Richardson sharing honours over the two days of coates Rally Queensland. Each team won a heat and scored a second place to share equal points towards the 2007 QRC.

They headed a gaggle of Mitsubishis as the triple-diamond has taken over as the dominant car in the Queensland derby. Shepheard’s familiar Evo.6 was joined by Brinkman’s new Evo. 9, a newly acquired Evo. 6 for Bruce Fullerton, the ex-Bernie Graf Evo. 5 now in the hands of John Goasdoue (ARC only), an ex-Pedders’ Evo. 6 for Simon and Margot Knowles, the Evo. 5 of Stephen Tonna/Lorelle Greenwood and an Evo. 3 for Shaun Gill/Jasmine Both.

Bernie Graf was a late withdrawal in Steve Shepheard’s old Evo. 6, which would have added yet another Mitsu to the start line.

Coates Rally Queensland offers two full point-scoring rounds of the state championship, but numbers were down on past years with speculation that the cost of competing in this premium event may be causing some to re-think their priorities.

Only 23 starters were listed for the City Subaru Queensland Rally Championship, and featuring alongside the Mitsubishi horde were Matt van Tuinen/John Moore (WRX), Ian Menzies/Bob McGowan (Falcon XR8), Nathan Quinn/Bruce Tyler (RX2) and Ralph French/Fred Schotte (WRX). Last year’s small-capacity ‘big guns’ were firing with Ian Ogilvie/Tony Best (Datsun 1200) and Gary Stacey/Tony Blackshaw (Datsun Sunny) out to resume their battles with the all-wheel-drive monsters.

Finally the prodigal son, Adrian Bukmanis, with navigator John Ahern, had returned to the Queensland round of the ARC in their Subaru Legacy. Bukky has a well-publicised role with ProDrive in the UK, but managed a flying visit home to run his favourite event in the whole world.

The rally route was identical to the ARC event, with just over 100 competitive kilometres per day in an identical route – except for Saturday night’s super-special around the Nambour Showgrounds. Some of the Queensland crews were also contesting the ARC event, but it seemed quite clear that the focus was on state points and the 2007 Queensland Rally Championship. Thankfully, the City Automotive Group was back on board as series sponsor with naming rights back with City Subaru.

Recce on Thursday was the schedule for most of the teams, except for Goasdoue whose co-driver Cameron Crevola was ill during the early part of the week. With approximately 75% of the route identical to 2006, most reported an easy day and finished within the prescribed times. It was unclear whether anyone in the whole field (QRC and ARC) actually took the opportunity to walk the Nambour Showgrounds stage, but it would prove to be a fairly level playing field on Saturday night anyway.

At the media day shakedown on Friday morning, Steve Shepheard/Tom Smith pulled a blinder to finish second outright, just fractions of a second behind Simon Evans. This caused some of the regular ARC runners to sit up and take notice, remembering that Shepheard was also an ARC regular a few years ago. Adding further to the irony was the fact that the Shepheard Evo. 6 weighed in at 1455kg at scrutiny – the third heaviest car in the field. Glenn Brinkman’s car was heavier by about 20kg and John Murray Senior’s Commodore was ‘top of the pops’.

The ceremonial start on Friday night took place on the Coolum beach esplanade and attracted thousands of onlookers – great for the event! After crossing the start ramp, crews were free to do anything until the formal event start at Imbil on Saturday morning.

With Saturday dawning fine despite early predictions of showers, the region was jumping and cars headed out to the first pair of stages to the north-west of Kandanga.
These were familiar but testing roads, where a foot wrong could cause serious grief and damage. Shepheard’s time was good enough for fourth fastest in the ARC fields, and comfortably ahead of his fellow QRC runners. Brinkman and Fullerton were next best of the rest, with Glenn taking a little care on his first forest stage in the brand new Evo. 9.
A clean run through this stage saw the whole QRC field make it safely, with Bukmanis re-acquitting himself to the task well in sixth place for the stage.

SS2 was a short blast in the reverse direction to last year’s stage and the collective times were a little closer overall. To return to the Imbil service park, crews faced up to ‘Kandanga’ – probably the nicest stage in the event. Over fast sweeping roads a well-noted team will do very well, and Shepheard extended his lead over Brinkman by another ten seconds.

Fullerton was performing well in the Evo. 6 Lancer, seemingly quicker than he had previously been in the WRX which he ran for a number of seasons. Darren Blain/Jim Gleeson (WRX) did not re-emerge after the service, when crews headed out to the roads west of Imbil. Menzies and Bukmanis drove well on SS4 in an effort to hunt down the leaders, as did Shaun Gill/Jasmine Both in the Evo. 3 Lancer.

Assembling at the start of the Cutters’ Camp special stages, drivers were mentally preparing themselves for the task at hand to ensure they followed the correct route (short versus long). For Shepheard, an overshoot saw the loss of an easy 15 seconds, while Brinkman cleaned up the stage in the sixth best outright time.

The Knowles team car was affected by electrical woes, and on the following run over the long version of Cutters’ the battle resumed. Shepheard suffered a flat with 2 kilometres to go, but drove to the finish as quickly as he could safely manage. Strong performances were coming from Nathan Quinn (RX2) and Stephen Tonna (Evo. 5), while Erik Johnsson/John McCarthy kept their WRX circulating consistently.

With two stages to go, Shepherd kept up the pace to hold off Brinkman, with Fullerton in third place. Van Tuinen finished a strong fourth, while Ian Menzies/Bob McGowan overcame some fuel problems during the day to take fifth and a class win.

Twenty crews were classified as finishers for Heat 1.

Heat 1 times:

Shepheard/Smith        1:08:56.1
Brinkman/Richardson    1:09:38.2
Fullerton/Reardon-Smith    1:10:39.7
Van Tuinen/Moore        1:11:36.4
Menzies/McGowan        1:11:50.8
Bukmanis/Ahern        1:12:14.5
Quinn/Tyler            1:12:44.7
Tonna/Greenwood        1:13:35.3
French/Schotte        1:14:23.2
Ogilvie/Best            1:15:36.2

The new Super Special stage at Nambour Showgrounds was run on Saturday night, but included in the Heat 2 times.
Essentially a launch into the showgrounds, then three laps – slowed slightly by a chicane made up of some ‘coates’ barrier blocks – the blast was a show for the good-sized crowd who had come to see what it was all about. As ‘match races’, cars were paired off with each starting from an opposite side of the stadium and Brinkman held off Shepheard by one second to take the stage.

The cars returned to overnight parc ferme at the Surfair Resort until start time early the next morning.

A liaison up to Imbil for service followed, then the field repeated the previous days’ stages – firstly up to the tough stages outside the town of Kandanga where the passage of cars had altered the road surface slightly. Brinkman took the first stage win, while Shepheard lost turbo boost at the three-quarter mark. A wastegate actuator rod had broken a nd the car finished this stage and the next short test as a normally aspirated car. Unfortunately the WRX of Ralph French/Fred Schotte suffered a rollover which put the crew out on the spot. Thankfully neither man was badly injured.

On SS2, the front-runners drove well including Darren Blain who showed good speed in his WRX. After some work with fencing wire to try to hold the wastegate open, Shepheard lost further time on the swift roads of Kandanga but Brinkman was driving well and gaining confidence in the new Evo. 9.

By SS12 (the third of the day), he had established a good lead over the Shepheard car with van Tuinen and Bukmanis arguing over third and Menzies safe in fifth.

Onto SS13, and with the wastegate working, Shepheard returned to top speed to win that stage and the next on the short Cutters’. Looking to then consolidate with a good run over the long Cutters’ stage, the Shepheard car suffered a partial fuel blockage and went backwards instead, dropping 30 seconds to the flying Brinkman.

Back to service once more, and with the problem solved Shepheard won the last two stages of the day to claw back 24 seconds, but not enough. Simon and Margot Knowles retired their Evo. 6 in SS15, while Pudsey/Rowan (Celica GT4) and van Paassen/van Host (Charade) also failed to finish.

In a day of variety, a solid performance from Gill saw the car in seventh, while Erik Johnsson recorded a good finish in eighth in the WRX. Gary Stacey/Tony Blackshaw proved to be the quickest of the small-capacity cars with a brilliant tenth outright on roads which may not have always suited the little Datsun.

Steve Tonna/Lorelle Greenwood grabbed some attention when they launched over the second hump at the main spectator point and ploughed the right hand front of the Lancer into the scenery, caused some cosmetic damage.

Brinkman/Richardson took the win for Heat 2, in front of Shepheard/Smith with van Tuinen/Moore in third. Bukmanis/Ahern were fourth with Menzies/McGowan again in fifth.

Heat 2 times:

Brinkman/Richardson    1:09:22.5
Shepheard/Smith        1:10:17.7
Van Tuinen/Moore        1:10:47.2
Bukmanis/Ahern        1:11:38.0
Menzies/McGowan        1:12:11.0
Blain/Gleeson        1:13:07.9
Gill/Both            1:14:04.3
Johnsson/McCarthy        1:14:45.1
Tonna/Greenwood        1:16:02.6
Stacey/Blackshaw        1:17:39.9

The City Subaru Queensland Rally Championship resumes on May 26 with the Philcomm Rally.

Steve Shepheard/Tom Smith and Glenn Brinkman/Steve Richardson are equal on points after coates Rally Queensland.

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