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Round one of the Australian Rally Championship, the Quit Forest Rally, brought mixed emotions for the leading Toyota privateer Raymond Partners Rally Team.

The infamous ball-bearing gravel roads in Western Australia saw the debut for brothers Glen and Matt Raymond in their Toyota Corolla Group N (P) rally car.
 
Despite first event nerves, the team was able to set a fourth fastest time in the first forest stage, even with the unfortunate incident of colliding with a kangaroo. However, the team’s fast start was to come to a sudden end when they collided with a rock buried in the blackberries, putting their Corolla onto its side and out of Heat one.
 
“The Corolla is such a good car compared to my old Subaru, that it’s turn-in grip caught me out on a long medium left that tightened,” Raymond explained. “We clipped a rock that was hidden in the blackberries on the inside of the corner. It was frustration plus as, although it was driver error, it wasn’t due to excessive speed, but more so inexperience in the new car.”
 
On the very same rock, Australian Champion, Simon Evans, two-wheeled his Corolla, and ex-World Rally Championship driver Michael Guest rolled, proving the difficulty of the corner involved.
 
Heat 2 brought its own difficulties, with a lack of power dogging the team for the first half of the stages. With technical assistance from TRD, the service team sorted the issue, discovering the blow-off valve, a part of the turbocharger system that vents excess induction air, was leaking and reducing power.
 
With an improved car, the team was able to consistently set times within the top five. Even with the time lost, they were able to claw back time to finish the heat in fifth place.
 
“We are even more excited about the year ahead after this weekend,” stated navigator Matt Raymond. “There is still massive amounts of speed left in the car and ourselves. Considering our unfamiliarity with car, we were happy to be rubbing shoulders with the nation’s best.”
 
Raymond’s attention now turns to the Rally of Canberra on May 10 and 11.

Photo: Hubble Photographix 

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