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The stage is already set for a tough and exciting 2007 Tasmanian Rally Series with competitors engaging in friendly verbal jousting, even before a wheel is turned in anger.  And they’ve all been very busy in the ‘off season’.

The first round of the 2007 Series is the Southern Cross Mountain Stages Rally that will be run on roads around Roses Tier and Mt Saddleback, east of Launceston in Northern Tasmania, on Saturday, March 31.

Current Series title-holders, David Waldon and Ross Ferguson, in their e-Home Subaru WRX, are going for their third win in a row at the Mountain Stages Rally, and have completely re-built the motor to make sure that their car is up to the task.

If that sounds enthusiastic, Burnie’s Craig Brooks and Adrian Hodgetts have garaged last year’s ‘orange rocket’ and have taken possession of a newer Subaru WRX.  The car’s actual details are being kept under wraps at the moment, but it’s scheduled to arrive in the State on Tuesday’s boat from Melbourne, and is rumoured to have an impressive history.  

Regardless, the Total Alarm Services team will only have a matter of days to get the car geared up for the first round, and it’s certain that there will not be any down-time for testing or settling into it prior to the rally.

“Craig’s taken a bit of a chance bringing a completely different and newer car straight into the Series, and we’ll enjoy showing him the way around the forest in our older WRX,” Waldon said today.

“We expected a bit of a ribbing early on from the other teams,“ replied Brooks.  “But once they’ve seen how this thing runs, they’ll be laughing on the other side of their faces.  We’re seriously committed to making this work in 2007.”

Sitting back and watching the two younger guns spar is former F2 Australian Rally Champion, Lee Peterson, in his Agricultural Resource Management Subaru WRX.  It’s been 20 years since Peterson took his first Tasmanian title in a Mazda RX2, and he is keen for a repeat result in this, his anniversary year.  He’s hoping that he’s solved his engine gremlins that plagued his 2006 campaign and after enhancing the exhaust, the ARM Subaru will have a different sound too.

Not so far back in the field from the top running 4WDs will be a collection of Commodores and a lone Falcon, all vying for 2WD glory.  Last year’s 2WD runner up, Nick Kingston from Smithton, has upgraded the Smithton Laundry Service Commodore from a V6 to a V8 in the hope of taking the title this year.  But the current 2WD title holder, Craig Sault, won’t be allowing him to run away too easily.

Ready to pounce if those two get tangled in the scenery will be local team Tim Ritchie and Barry New in the Thomas Parker Rare Spares Commodore.  This team has many years of experience together, and with the rally being run in their backyard, they can’t be discounted.  Ray Skeggs and Allan O’Roark in the lone Ford Falcon, are also locals.  They’re eager to do well in their second season and will also be worth keeping an eye on.

The competitors in the Southern Cross Mountain Stages Rally will assemble at Archers Manor in Launceston from 7:15am, with the first car departing at 8:30am.  The course will cover over 130km in eight special stages, and the first car is expected to return to Archers Manor at 4:30 that afternoon.

There are three separate locations where spectators can view the action, with the cars passing through one location three times during the day’s action.  Spectator guides can be collected from local event sponsors: Southern Cross, Archers Manor, Legana Tyres and More, Thomas Parker Rare Spares, or from Autocraft in Hobart.

Photo: Morey Photography

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