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In a series of firsts, the Mitsubishi Evo VI of Samantha Stevens and co-driver Bernie Webb has taken the lead in the 2012 Australian Tarmac Rally Championship with a decisive win in wet conditions at the Mt Baw Baw Sprint - the first time a female has won a national tarmac rally.

The inaugural Mt Baw Baw Sprint rally - the first round of four in the AASA national series - saw a small but prestigious field of cars line up on February 11-12 for multiple runs up the twisting 16km tarmac access road from the base of the mountain to the Baw Baw resort at its summit.

Samantha, who won the Australian Tarmac Championship for Early Modern cars in 2010, has until now danced on the edge of a win with consistent top-five finishes in a short three-year driving career. But this time, she and co-driver Bernie Webb took the 13-year-old car to the top spot on the outright table with consistently fast times in wet conditions.

"I went to the Baw Baw Sprint hoping to develop both my driving skills and a better suspension setup on the Behind The Drive Evo - and of course to have some fun - but I never dared dream an outright win was possible!" said Samantha.

"We took some risks, changing springs overnight and dialing the car in and out, but Bernie is a master of both car setup and of keeping a hot-headed driver under control, and we kept improving over time."

As the rain and fog set in on the mountain, Samantha and Bernie won all but one stage on day two, pulling up to 30 seconds on their nearest competitor.

"My forte is in the wet - both myself and my car are not as speedy as some of my incredibly quick peers when the conditions are dry and fast - yet," she added. 'But in the wet with all-wheel grip and commitment to the notes, we plugged away and came out with a surprise win. It's a shame that the leading Evo IX of Danny Traverso slipped off the road in torrential rain on the final run. But a win is a win, and we'll take it."

Samantha is now leading the AASA Australian Tarmac Rally Championship, and is currently second in the CAMS Australian Targa Championship in the Early Modern category.

When asked about her status as Australia's first female to top a national rally, she said: "It's not about gender; its about teamwork, persistence, and guts. While it's fabulous to have such an honour of being the first girl to top the tables, I'm still surprised that it has taken this long. I was Bernie's 30th driver, but his first female. There should be more women taking up the wheel.

"Rally is such an amazing sport; the mateship and help on hand is wonderful. I would not have finished the rally had my fellow competitors not lent me parts when my camber bolts stripped, or push-started my car when it decided to play dead. It is such an equal playing field. The only balls you need are metaphoric!" The championship continues on May 25 - 27 with the multi-stage Snowy River Sprint, before the Northeast Tarmac Rally on August 10 - 12, and the Lake Mountain Sprint on November 24 - 25.

Outright Results 2012 - Mt Baw Baw Sprint
1st - Samantha Stevens / Bernie Webb
2nd - Steve Spada / Jessica Nicholson
3rd - Clinton Arentz / Peter Burrey
4th - Guy Lilleyman / Steve Glenney
5th - Keith Morling / Alex Morling
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