Swart and S2000 VW win Queensland Rally Championship
- 8th August 2011, 11:59am
The rally consisted of two loops of stages, very different in nature, with one loop held in the wetlands surrounding the Capricorn Resort, and the other in the challenging forests of Byfield to the north. The wetlands roads are tight and twisty with a sandy base, and navigation is often very tricky with many corners extremely hard to see. Overshoots are traditionally the order of the day around here.
Byfield Forest presents a fantastic 28km forestry stage, with a hard packed base and a mix of fast and open roads thrown in with other more technically challenging sections. This stage is a real driver’s stage, and is always fun and interesting.
Despite the entire area being metres underwater during the devastating floods earlier in the year, the roads in both regions shaped up remarkably well, however by the end of the third pass through Byfield, the “double caution dips and ruts” really had to be treated with some respect. The organising team headed by Ross Makela and the Central Queensland Motor Sports Club presented a well run event offering variety and challenge.
Chief outright competition came in the guise of Paul Andrews in his Evo IX. Keen to make amends for the frustrations of a DNF at Rally Queensland, Paul was looking to prove a point in his own backyard. The first stage of the event was a 1.5km warm-up around the Homestead. Overnight rain had topped up the already swampy conditions in the wetlands, so Swart, who was car 1 and therefore also sweeping the roads, approached the start with a conservative frame of mind.
After the first three stages, Andrews held a commanding 1 minute and 8 seconds lead over the S2000 VW Polo, with the other main QRC protagonist, Wayne Menzies in his Evo VI losing time by collecting the hay bales at the chicane on stage one, and then ultimately falling out of the event after taking a rough dip too hard and damaging the Evo’s intercooler in Stage 3.
Through the second loop of stages, Swart in the awesome sounding VW Polo managed to re-claim 20 seconds of the lead Andrews held, with a fast and improving run over the stages. One moment of excitement came towards the end of the Byfield Stage with a huge overshoot at a square right turn just after a crest. Spectators further down the road created the impression that the turn was later than it was, meaning that the Polo, running as Car 1 on the road, blasted straight ahead through several layers of Bunting – executed a beautiful handbrake turn and then back-tracked at high speed to rejoin the correct route.
The team later “Fessed Up” to the indiscretion, only to be told that Paul Andrews did exactly the same thing two minutes after them. What was funnier later that night was a sheepish John Spencer who had been driving the zero car also confessed to overshooting the same corner before everyone else.
At the Second Major Service, prior to the night stages, the S2000 service crew was confronted with a VW Polo full of feathers – the result of a slow fluffy bird attempting to escape the oncoming VW, and not quite making it! It was sucked into the roof mounted air vent and then proceeded to explode in a violent puff of fluffy grey feathers!
According to McConkey, the worst part about it was having to keep calling instructions while spitting out feathers and trying not to laugh.
The final loop of stages turned out to be pivotal to the results of the rally. Night had fallen and light pods were installed on the cars. The Polo was trying on its new cluster of HID lights (75w HIDs from HID-Lightsdownunder) for the first time and their power and efficiency obviously worked as Swart was able to storm home over the last two stages – closing the 48 second deficit to Andrews and eventually winning by an incredibly close eight seconds.
After a faultless run, the sensational VW Polo S2000, driven superbly by Marius Swart, managed to grab the win and secure the rights to the title of Queensland Rally Champions for 2011. An enormous vote of thanks going from the team to their mighty service crew of Brian Loopstra, Chris Scott and Joyce Fourie.
The Rally was voted an outstanding success and marked a fantastic salute to the brilliant sounding VW Polo S2000, which also got the vote for the most popular car of the rally.
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