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After finishing eighth in the International Rally of Otago in New Zealand earlier this year, Darryn Snooks has continued his good form by taking out the 2007 Alpine Rally after nearly five hours of competitive driving over two days.

Driving the same Datsun Stanza that he took to New Zealand in April, Snooks and co-driver Matt De Vaus outlasted a quality field that included the likes of Geoff Portman, Wayne Bell, Brett Middleton, Jack Monkhouse and Paul Batten.

With over 110 entries, the bi-annual Alpine Rally was again conducted by the Historic Rally Association and based in the East Gippsland region, centred on Lakes Entrance. Using a huge area of hardwood plantations that rarely see rally cars in action, the Alpine was, as usual, the drawcard event on the Victorian rallying calendar.

The event was again only open to two-wheel drive, normally aspirated cars, however a dispensation was give to Gerry Duyvestyn’s beautiful ex-works Lance Rallye 037 with its turbocharged and supercharged engine.

Rain leading up to the event had road conditions in nearly perfect condition for the event, which started at 10am on the Saturday morning of November 24. With such a large field, it meant that the last car started nearly four hours after the first, making the job of the control officials that much more labour intensive.

Snooks set up his victory during Saturday’s stages and finished the first day and night with a lead of around four minutes after many rivals had fallen by the wayside or had problems.

2005 Alpine winner Geoff Portman failed to start the event after his borrowed Holden Commodore suffered an engine failure, while 2003 winner Brian Semmens was unable to make it through the first day after hitting a rock that forced his retirement.

ARC regular Paul Batten chased hard in his Datsun 1600 but retired with gearbox failure, as did Gerald Schofield in his Roger Clark-replica Escort, until engine failure.

Former Holden Dealer Team and Hyundai World Rally Team driver, Wayne Bell, competed in his first non-pacenoted rally for 16 years and had the Fiat 131 Abarth replica in second place heading into the night division. But a spin on the long 33km tarmac stage saw him stall the car, and when the starter motor failed, he was left stranded mid-stage and out of the rally.

Brett Middleton was also performing well in his ex-ARC Formula 2 Championship winning Honda Civic, but a spin saw him knock the driving lights off the car and he struggled through the remainder of Saturday’s stages, and dropped down the order as a result.

With light raining falling at the start of the second day, Snooks set off to preserve his lead, chased hard by Jesse Robison in his Datsun 240Z, Kari Dirickx and Carl Stewart in Datsun 1600s, Jack Monkhouse in his Datsun 180B, and the Porsche 911 of Jeff David.

Robison pushed hard, but when the exhaust fell off his Datsun and he was forced to stop and make repairs, his victory push was over and Snooks could steer his Stanza to a memorable victory.

Robison took second, 42 seconds clear of Dirickx, who in turn beat Stewart by five seconds, and Monkhouse by 9.

Claude Murray was sixth in his Datsun 1600, Middleton seventh in the Honda, David eighth in the Porsche, while the top 10 was rounded out by Andrew Taylor in a Mazda RX7, and the under-powered Proton Satria of former ARC front-runner David West.

The Alpine Rally was again hailed as a tremendously successful event. Fifty-seven of the original 109 starters completed all 23 stages of the rally.

The Alpine Rally is expected to be held again in November 2009.

Final Results:
1. Darryn Snooks / Matt De Vaus, Datsun Stanza, 267m42s

2. Jesse Robison / Samantha Robison, Datsun 240Z, 270:40

3. Kari Dirickx / Tim Batten, Datsun 1600, 271:22

4. Carl Stewart / Matt James, Datsun 1600, 271:27

5. Jack Monkhouse / Dale Moscatt, Datsun 180B SSS, 271:31

6. Claude Murray / Lizzy Ferme, Datsun 1600, 272:38

7. Brett Middleton / Andrew Benefield, Honda Civic, 272:47

8. Jeff David / Grant Geelan, Porsche 911, 273:46

9. Andrew Taylor / Robin Smalley, Mazda RX7, 275:43

10. David West / Robert West, Proton Satria, 276:15

Photos: Peter Whitten

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