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It was so nearly a faultless debut with the Renault Sport Rally Team for WA driver Tom Wilde. Wilde finished fifth outright in his French-imported Renault Clio R3 in the opening round of the 2013 East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship (ARC), the National Capital Rally, in Canberra at the weekend.

He and new co-driver Bill Hayes had their eyes on fourth position for most of Sunday (Heat Two) but had an off on the final stage of the event.

“We had an overshoot and got bogged,” Wilde said. “We had to dig it out which took us about 15 minutes.”

Until the incident, Wilde, who was competing in a two-wheel-drive car for the first time, said everything had run fairly smoothly over the weekend.

“We’re still learning about what the car will do in certain situations,” he said. “We didn’t take any risks.”

Wilde said he was really happy with his Renault Rally Sport Team debut and the speeds he achieved in the Clio.

At the end of Heat One, which was cut from six stages to four because of the effect wet weather had had on the roads, Wilde and Hayes were in third position behind Renault Sport teammate Scott Pedder, also in a Clio, and Eli Evans in a Honda Jazz.

They maintained good speeds in Heat Two and were amongst the four fastest drivers on the majority of stages of the event. Evans went on to win the event. Pedder was second and Jack Monkhouse, in a Nissan Silvia S15, was third.

Wilde scored 42 ARC Championship points for his efforts and now has his sights set on his hometown event, and round two of the ARC, the Quit Forest Rally in Busselton next month.

He said Racetorque would go over his car and aim for more grip and better suspension.

Meanwhile fellow WA driver Nicholas Box, who was unable to have his new Allstar Garage Nissan 370Z ready for the event, competed in a borrowed Holden VK Commodore and picked up 24 points for finishing 10th.

Box’s teammate Danny Williamson competed in a Datsun 1600 in the Classics section of the National Capital Rally but went out on stage 10 with differential issues.

Another WA hopeful, Adrian Di Lallo, who recently finished 38th outright in the Dakar Rally in South America, suffered gearbox problems with his Mitsubishi Evo VI on the third stage of Heat One was unable to re-join the rally for Heat Two.

WA co-driver Ben Searcy, who competed with Victorian Steven MacKenzie in a Ford Fiesta, finished sixth. And Lee Tierney, who called the directions for another Victorian, Hayden Taylor, in a Nissan Bluebird was third in the Classics section of the rally.

The National Capital Rally was meant to run over 200 competitive kilometres but was cut back to 170 kilometres. Over 70 teams entered in the event while 58 finished.

The next round of the 2013 ECB Australian Rally Championship is the Quit Forest Rally in Busselton and Nannup, WA on 5-7 April.

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