Proving yet again that he is a future star of Australian rallying, Coffs Harbour local Nathan Quinn reinforced his dominance by winning the third round of the NSW state championship, the Myall Stages Rally.

Quinn (20) and new co-driver, John McArthy, were in a class of their own at the event, winning five of the eight stages in their ten year old Group N Evo 5 Lancer, beating the current series leader and several other state champions in their highly modified newer cars.

However, the weekend didn’t go as smoothly as the team would have liked.  With an almost 50 second lead going into the final leg of the rally, Quinn's team made a strategic decision to back off and preserve the lead, a decision which unfortunately resulted in an off road excursion at relatively high speed.

Admitting his relative inexperience, Quinn commented: "We had a solid lead so we thought it best to slow down and concentrate on getting home safely. Unfortunately, I learned that driving these cars anything but flat out can be difficult. The handling was much different to what it usually is when it’s being pushed, so I was adapting my driving style to suit. I wasn't concentrating as much as I should have been and we went off the road two stages from the end of the rally."

By the time the car limped back to the service park in Bulahdelah the gap between first placed Quinn and second place had closed in to just 11 seconds. It was only once the crew began to work on the car that the team realised things were in worse shape than originally thought.

"Basically Nathan went wide on a 7 Right, which is a fifth gear bend. As a result he clipped the bank and drove it head first into the ground,” said Nathan’s father/Team Manager Martin Quinn. “We have the incident on in-car camera and it was a violent shunt. It is very interesting to see that his reactions and instinct are world class - any lesser driver would have rolled it into a ball, though I might add, there was a bit of luck in it too."

Quinn and co-driver McArthy had the car mostly disassembled at the book in control under the watchful eye and instructions of his support crew, as the rules stipulate the crew are not allowed to work on the vehicle until the designated service. Assistance from the crew at any other time would mean automatic exclusion.

"Although the car was within 50 metres of our service area we had to wait 20 minutes to book in before we could touch it. It was leaking oil and coolant and there was steam coming out of it, it looked a real mess. Upon closer inspection the true extent of the damage was revealed,” Martin Quinn added.

With just 20 minutes to repair the damage and preserve their lead in the rally, the team set about a miraculous transformation. They replaced the radiator, power steering, turbo pipes, front bumper, and the rear suspension arms all at the same time as carrying out the basic needs like refuelling, tyres, and cleaning the windows, which normally takes up the 20 minutes alone. They made it to book in within 10 seconds to spare.

"I really thought we were out," said Nathan. "But the team said they could fix it, and I shouldn’t have ever doubted it. It became obvious that I have the best team out there. But I never had the heart to tell them that I just drove it 30km with no water in it and I was sure it had blown a head gasket, after the radiator was punctured by the turbo charger!" Quinn laughed.

As it turned out, the car did have a blown head gasket and a bent chassis, however the team charged on with two stages to go.

After the penultimate stage, and with the crew constantly monitoring the car’s performance, Quinn set yet another fastest time on the final stage of the day, extending his lead to 14 seconds.

"It was a great feeling" said Quinn (senior). "We were absolutely thrilled with the result, mum was crying, the team were ecstatic and we beat adversity. That's what rallying's about, that's why we do it." the proud father and Team Manager concluded.

Quinn’s next event is the final round of the Australian Rally championship in Coffs Harbour. from November 15-16.


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