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A young South Australian couple is ready for battle in this year’s Australian Tarmac Rally Championship title, with just two events remaining in the series.

Tristan and Kate Catford will contest the Great Tarmac Rally.Tristan and Kate Catford come into next week’s Great Tarmac Rally (November 13-15) with a strong lead in the points tally for the modern category of the Championship. They also have the confidence of two podium finishes in the first two rounds, including a win in the second round.

“We’re heading into GTR with our best event preparation to date,” Tristan says.

“We did a lot of maintenance on the [Mitsubishi] Evo 9 during the winter break and we’re so far ahead with our program and testing that we’ve been able to do some extra recces of the roads we will be competing on. Hopefully we can hit the ground running on Day One with a reliable package and confidence in our pace notes to continue the consistent series results.”

The Great Tarmac Rally is one of four contested in Victoria’s Alpine region and East Gippsland that make up the ATRC. The 2015 series kicked off with the Mt Baw Baw Sprint in February and was followed by the Lake Mountain Sprint in March.

Because the series uses mountain roads that are closed to public use during competition, it pauses during the winter ski season. The series finale (Snowy River Sprint) will be run out of Lakes Entrance just two weeks after the Great Tarmac Rally, on December 4-6.

Tristan, 29, a property valuer, and Kate, 28, an orthopaedic theatre nurse, started competing together five years ago. Their best result in tarmac rallies came in this year’s Lake Mountain Sprint – first outright and first in class – but their strength has been evident for some time, with many stage wins in tarmac rallies and outright wins in hillclimb events.

The pair lives in Adelaide but originally hail from the mid north region of South Australia: Tristan from Jamestown and Kate from Caltowie. Kate got into the sport because of her husband’s interest: Tristan because of a shared family passion.

“My father did some circuit racing in the Eighties and we share a love for racing,” Tristan says.

“I’ve also always enjoyed watching gravel rallying, and Kate is now involved in that category as well doing tarmac events with me. I love the teamwork that’s involved in a rally, and the strategic nature of it – when to challenge your pace and when to conserve it.

“Obviously the ATRC has special meaning for us, because winning the Lake Mountain Sprint this year was a true highlight of what we’ve been doing. The whole team has worked so hard to get to this point and to share it with Kate and my mates made it a very special victory after many years of having the pace but not the stamina! Hope we can keep it up right to the end of the year!”

Kate also relishes the need for the team to work as a single unit to achieve results, and learning to work around the challenges that weather and changing road conditions might throw into the mix. She says they both enjoy the laidback nature and social side of the ATRC.

“The events are relaxed and friendly. The camaraderie between the competitors, event organisers and officials is second to none. The format makes for easy team logistics and minimal transport times, which I like – plus the roads are some of the most exciting and challenging in the country.”

Melbourne-based events company Mountain Motor Sports has run 41 tarmac rallies and touring road events since 1995. It has a five-year gazettal from Vic Roads for all of its events.

The Australian Tarmac Rally Championship, either as a whole or as single events, is open to all comers with three categories of entry available.

One is for fully licensed rally drivers competing against the clock in specially prepared rally cars while the second is the ‘touring’ category, which allows would-be rally drivers a ‘taste’ of tarmac rallying by  driving their road car at higher-than-usual road speeds behind an experienced rally driver who demonstrates the right techniques.

The third category is regularity, where competitors drive each stage of the event in a specified time at a specified average speed. If they arrive late or early, there are penalties, and the crew with the lowest number of penalties is the winner.

While the series is based in Victoria, the entry list attracts competitors from every state in Australia. They are prepared to commute from WA, SA, Queensland and NSW to drive some great mountain roads under closed road conditions, with the protection of a rigorous safety monitoring system to ‘keep watch’ on them.

There are some limited places left in both events. Further information is available from event director Peter Washington (0418 337 955) or the website: http://www.australiantarmacrally.com/

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