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With a whoop and a holler, the 2007 City Subaru Queensland Rally Championship headed to Yeppoon, just outside Rockhampton on Queensland’s central coast on July 14.

The fourth round of the series this year was presented by the Central Queensland Motor Sporting Club under the experienced eye of Gordon Fischer, the Clerk-of-Course.

At the end of a compact, and yet demanding 120 competitive kilometres of driving, it was the GSA/Oztec team of Steve Shepheard and Tom Smith who took another outright win in their Evo. 6 Lancer.

Early challengers (and ’06 champs) Glenn Brinkman and Steve Richardson were swapping stage wins with Shepheard in their Evo. 9 Lancer, but an impact with a rocky outcrop caused underbody damage and a rare early retirement.

This allowed two of the up-and-coming drivers in Queensland to pick up podium positions with Erik Johnsson/John McCarthy (WRX) in second, and Steve Tonna/Lorelle Greenwood grabbing third in their Evo. 5 Lancer.

Interestingly these two drivers had invested in a drive day with Simon Evans only three weeks before, and the tuition appeared to pay off.

The club was happy with a field of forty entries for the event, locally sponsored by Rydges Capricorn resort, and once again the grounds of the resort itself provided a fair share of the competitive route.

The nearby Byfield Forest was used for the balance of the event and combination of road surfaces worked well.

Regular crews were present including Ian Menzies/Bob McGowan (Falcon XR8), Shaun Gill/Jasmine Both (Evo. 3), Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle (240KGT) and Allan Clunes/Gavin Wieland (323GTX).

A little rain in the preceding weeks caused the route to be shortened to avoid some serious wet dips. In last year’s event there were some casualties from the water in certain areas of the course.

With discretion the better part of valour, the route became 119 kilometres over thirteen stages, with three attempts at the spectator stage near the resort HQ.

Winter in central Queensland is still cold, and Saturday 14 July was a brisk start to the rally. With a start time of 10am, the first car was due home by 7.00pm that night.

Making an exciting entry was Nathan Quinn from Coff’s Harbour who has been showing incredible speed in his Mazda RX2. Nathan, the son of past master Martin was entered in the ex-Glenn Brinkman Evo. 5 Lancer – a car with a good pedigree and successful past.

The event was also a round of the City Subaru Clubman Rally Series and careful planning saw  the Clubman field finish at the Rydges Spectator stage with just on 82 competitive kms under the belt.

Quinn opened the day with a stage win over the 1.6 kay blast, pipping the main championship hopefuls by a tick of the clock.

Out to Windmill Plains, the first of the sandy Resort stages over 15.51 km, and it was time to get serious.

Shepheard had a shocker (by his own accounts) with three overshoots in the tight forest growth. Lamenting his bad time, he found that Brinkman confessed to the same, as did a couple of the others.

As a result the time difference between Brinkman and Shepheard was only one second. Quinn was third, then Tonna, Johnsson and Menzies.

Very unusually, Ian Ogilvie retired his Datsun 1200 Coupe with oil pressure problems - a car which is normally 100% reliable. He and co-driver Tony Best went back to the locker rooms.

Another Resort stage followed in Honeymoon Island (15.05 km) and Shepheard clawed back 3 seconds over Brinkman.

Quinn’s great 4WD debut came to an end when the car lost drive, suggesting a gearbox or right-angle drive failure. He looked for a replacement but conceded that the race would have to resume at the next Coffs Harbour event.

Gill also retired with engine woes, and down the field retirements were also recorded for Lance and Debbie Melrose (Escort) and Rohan Maxim/Craig Booth (Sunny).

A service followed at Rydges before the drive up to Byfield and a selection of forest stages.

Shepheard was having starter-motor problems which prevented him from stopping the car, and a decision was made to keep it running until a later, longer service period when it could be successfully changed.

Called ‘Grotty’ SS4 was far from unpleasant and to keep the battle hot, Shepheard and Brinkman split equal times.

Tonna and Johnsson were fighting hard and driving well to stay in sight.

Ian Menzies’ effort was quite incredible considering the tyres he was using. With second-hand Michelins on the big Ford, every ounce of tread was worn off the rubber but he pushed on and pushed hard.

In the Clubman field there was a similar and intense tussle going on between Allan Clunes, Ross Cox/Bernie O’Halloran  in the newly acquired VR4 and Wayne Menzies/Chris Baxter (Celica).

SS5 ‘Dump Road’ was also a tidy 6.20 kms, and Shepheard drove well, but only took back a single second from Brinkman.

Menzies was next best, still trying to keep the power on the ground, and down the field Dave Ovenden/Catriona Kelly retired with engine problems in their RX2.

‘The Saint’ followed over 13.92 kilometres and this stage, although rocky in places, was far from dangerous.

Unfortunately a sharp outcrop caught the centre bearing on Brinkman’s tailshaft and destroyed the shaft, diff mounting and damaged the fuel tank.

The team called it a day after crawling back to Byfield service park.

Accordingly Shepheard opened up a lead on this stage, being nineteen seconds quicker than the next best, Johnsson.

Daniel and Tim Callinan also retired the silver V8 Monaro in this stage when an off caused a diff breakage. They knew it was serious when they could actually see the diff gears through the casing……

One of the highlights of any rally is the efforts of the volunteer officials and this event was no different.

At Byfield, Forestry regulations demand a washdown to prevent the spread of noxious weeds, and year after year ‘Darryl’ gets the job.

In winter weather, and dressed in a wetsuit and clear facemask, Darryl does a great job under the rally cars as his contribution to the rally. The stuff of legends!!

The field returned to Rydges for the longest stage of the rally, being a compilation of the previous two stages run during the day.

At a tad under 22 kms, this was the highlight of the event and Shepheard responded to the challenge with a clean run to take 40+ seconds form Johnsson and Tonna.

Another shot at the spectator stage and a regroup awaited.

This was the end of the rally for those doing the Clubman event and the provisional results showed the win going to Ross Cox/Bernie O’Halloran in the VR4. They were followed by Clunes/Wieland and Wayne Menzies/Chris Baxter.

All three crews continued on with the rest of the QRC stages.

The route sent the field back up to Byfield, where further re-runs of the stages were on call.

Shepheard/Smith did not back off due to the loss of Brinkman/Richardson and set about safely, but quickly establishing an unbeatable lead.

They were quickest on each of the Byfield stages with Johnsson and Tonna showing themselves the best of the rest.

Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle pushed the ‘Fat Lady’ hard but the superior 4WD cars (plus dust) prevented them from getting too close.

Menzies/McGowan came into service with a gearbox stuck in gear, and a quick change by their crew saw them out to complete the event within the late time limit.

Cox unfortunately suffered mechanical problems and retired before full distance, as did Mark Casper/Mark Malpas who blew the motor in their rapid Mazda 323.

With the Byfield stages out of the way, the field ret urned to the Rydges Resort for the final spectator stage.

Shepheard finished the event on a high with a big half-spin and stall, but still won the stage and the event, backing up his 2006 win.

In a very popular result, Erik Johnsson/John McCarthy and Steve Tonna/Lorelle Greenwood shared the other podium positions in second and third respectively.

Nnever to be ignored, Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle finished in a great fourth place, while Ian Menzies/Bob McGowan rounded out the top five with a gearbox change and several absolutely bald tyres.

Interstate visitors Joanne O’Dell/Gianni Accadia took a fine sixth in their Evo 2 Lancer, Gary Stacey and Tony Blackshaw kept the small-capacity flag waving (as ever) in their Datsun Sunny in seventh and in a top result Anthony Tanzer/Lee Wilson were the best local crew in eighth outright.

Ninth were Darren Jones/Julie Woodworth in their 240K, with Wayne Menzies/Chris Baxter rounding out the top ten.

With the event safely tucked away, the presentation dinner at the resort went ahead as planned on the night, with a huge crowd of a couple of hundred people.

The popularity of this event is amazing, and the organisers presented a rally to be proud of.

Making a surprise appearance as a special visitor at the rally was ARCOM Chairman Ed Ordynski, who took the time to check out a state-level championship event he would rarely have the chance to see.

He came away impressed.

The QRC resumes on August 18 with the combined NSWRC/QRC at Coffs Harbour – which is about the same distance from Brisbane as Rockhampton!!


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