Rally stars ready for 30th Rally Tasmania
- 25th February 2010, 1:48pm
Starting tomorrow, Rally Tasmania includes some of tarmac rallying’s most popular stages, including Hellyer Gorge, Savage River and the exciting Burnie street stage.
The event includes sections for Modern and Classic cars, and is also the first round of the Australian Rally Championship.
The field for the Rally Tasmania modern competition (for cars built after 1981) is headed by three of the country’s most successful tarmac rally drivers, all intent on winning the anniversary edition of the event.
Tony Quinn took out last year’s rally in his Nissan GT-R and will be eager to repeat that performance, but he’ll come under intense pressure from touring car legend Jim Richards (Porsche 911 GT2) and Steve Glenney (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) – both of whom are also previous Rally Tasmania winners.
In fact Quinn, Richards and Glenney are also Targa Tasmania winners, making them the three most credentialed drivers in the field.
The modern competition entry list is dominated by Subarus, Nissans and Mitsubishis, with Richards’ German Porsche the only real threat to the Japanese juggernaut.
Local hopes rest with Burnie’s own Jamie Vandenberg, who can never be discounted in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV.
Together with brother Simon, Vandenberg drove a rear-wheel drive Skelta G-Force in the recent Targa Wrest Point in Hobart, but is back behind the wheel of his turbocharged, four-wheel drive Lancer on stages that he knows like the back of his hand. He’ll be determined to improve on his third placing from 2009.
Young guns Klark Quinn (Nissan GT-R) and Brendan Reeves (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) will also be a big chance for a podium finish. Quinn has plenty of circuit racing experience, while Reeves is one of Australia’s brightest rallying stars. At just 21 years of age he already has considerable overseas rallying experience.
Simon Gillett is expected to perform well in an event he loves, while the hot pink Nissan GT-Rs of Tony Alford and Peter Leemhuis will again be favourites with the spectators.
Can anyone catch the flying De Tomaso Pantera of Keith and Mary-Anne Callinan? That’s the question Rally Tasmania Classic competitors are asking as they ready themselves for this weekend’s event.
The Classic car section of the event, for cars pre-1982, will see some fascinating duals, but it is Callinan’s thundering 700 horsepower V8 that will start as a clear favourite.
Porsche 911 drivers Roger Paterson and Peter Eames will be sure to give the Queenslander a run for his money, and with the Pantera prone to mechanical problems, they’ll be counting on the reliability of the German Porsches to give them the edge.
Western Australian Mark Dobson could be a dark horse in his Triumph TR7, while a trio of Tasmanians will be eager to uphold local honours.
John Kelly and Michael Bates (Holden Torana LX), Michael Kelly and Dion North (Ford Falcon XD), and Mitch Roberts and Tony Cooper (Mazda RX7) epitomise what classic rallying is about, and should perform well.
Crowd favourites could be South Australians Graeme and Bruce Robinson, who will drive their Leyland Mini Clubman GT.
AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Three-time national champion, Simon Evans, is the clear favourite heading into Rally Tasmania, the first round of the 2010 Australian Rally Championship (ARC).
The Victorian has won his three previous titles driving a Toyota and Mitsubishi, but this year he’s back driving for his family-run team, at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX STI.
A crowd favourite, Evans and his co-driving wife, Sue, have been the pacesetters in three of the past four seasons, and are expected to start the season well.
Their biggest threat will probably come from last year’s ARC runner-up, Glen Raymond, who this year has switched to a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
Raymond has his brother, Matt, reading the pacenotes, and if last year’s performances in a Toyota Corolla are anything to go by, then they have every chance of upsetting team Evans.
Ensuring that Raymond is kept on his toes will be Simon Evans’ younger brother, Eli, who’ll debut a Honda Civic Type R in Rally Tasmania.
If the weather conditions remain dry, then Evans’ 1600cc, front-wheel drive Honda will be a real chance of victory, however if it rains, then his chances will disappear quickly.
Returning to the sport after a couple of seasons contesting the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is Scott Pedder who, together with his brother Mark, has reformed the Pedders Rally Team for a two-car assault on the ARC.
It may take Pedder some time to find his feet again at ARC level, but his speed is unquestioned.
Melbourne’s Justin Dowel is hoping to improve on his fourth placing in last year’s championship, while Queensland young gun, Ryan Smart, has moved up to an ex-works Toyota Corolla Sportivo for his attack on this year’s title.
His fellow Queenslander, Steve Shepheard, has again committed to the ARC in his privately entered Lancer Evo X.
The only Tasmanian in the ARC field is Daniel Wilson, who’ll call the pacenotes for South Australian driver Barry Kirk in a Mitsubishi Mirage RS.
Rally Tasmania is the first of six rounds in this year’s Australian Rally Championship.
Entrants in the 30th Rally Tasmania will tackle 19 special stages covering a total competitive distance of 210 kilometres. Three stages on Friday afternoon will be followed by eight stages on both Saturday and Sunday.
The highlight for spectators will be two runs around the Burnie street stage on Sunday afternoon, the last two stages of the rally. This will be followed by a Food and Wine Festival on the Burnie foreshore.
For further information on Rally Tasmania visit the event website at www.rallytasmania.com.au
Photo: Peter Whitten
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