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Afternoon thunderstorms could throw up an unexpected hurdle as crews prepare for tomorrow’s fifth round of the Australian Rally Championship, the Great Lakes Rally, based at Forster on the NSW central coast.

Thunder, lightening and heavy rain blanketed the region late on Friday afternoon as crews finalised their preparations for the event.

Friday morning’s shakedown was held in dry and dusty conditions, as was Thursday’s recce, but the rain could provide a new variable to the event. Experienced former competitors say that rain on the dry stages will make them as slippery as a bowling alley.

An all-new event on the calendar, the Great Lakes Rally stages are fast and unforgiving and should suit the style of championship leader Simon Evans, however loose gravel on the top of the roads will be his major obstacle.

But Evans is relishing the challenge and aims to build on the substantial lead he has in this year’s title race.

“The roads are fast and it’s going to be a great rally,” Evans said. “The car has been bullet proof all year and I see no reason why that won’t continue this weekend.”

Evans’ nearest challenger is his team-mate Neal Bates in the Super 2000 Corolla, and Bates says that while the faster sections won’t suit his car, the downhill sections will.

“We might struggle going up the hills, but the lightness of the car and its superb handling and braking will hopefully make up for that,” he said.

Dean Herridge felt that his Impreza was a little down on power at the shakedown, while Ford’s drivers, Michael Guest and Darren Windus, drove their Fiestas for the first time since the last round in South Australia. The team were unable to test the cars in the lead-up to the event, and used the shakedown as their familiarisation run before the rally gets under way on Saturday morning.

The Great Lakes Rally also includes a round of the NSW Rally Championship, and the separate Great Lakes Classic Rally, which offers more competitive distance.

In the ARC and NSWRC components, Saturday entails seven stages totalling 90km in competitive, while a similar distance will be traversed on Sunday.

The rally gets under way with a ceremonial start in Forster tonight (Friday), before the stages start at 8am on Saturday morning.

Photo: Redline Photographics

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