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Bad weather did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the “tiddlers” running in the P2 and P3 class in last weekend’s NGK Rally of Melbourne, but it did make things difficult for drivers.

While Saturday’s Heat 1 in the Yarra Valley, 70 kilometres north east of Melbourne, was a dry and dusty affair that suited the small front wheel drive cars, heavy rain, muddy roads, wind squalls and fallen trees took the edge off some giant-killing performances the following day.

Right from the outset the battle for P2 honours was to be fought out between the experienced son/father crew of Lee and Ken Garrioch, and ARC newcomer, Brenton Kaitler and co-driver Ben Searcy. Driving Mitsubishi Mirage Cyborgs, these two crews traded places and stage times all weekend until the Garriochs left the road on Saturday’s final stage, SS8, Keppels, handing the Heat One victory to Kaitler and Searcy who finished 15th overall.

The only other contenders in the P2 class, Canberra’s Doug Wright and Mark Berndt, were forced out on SS3, Ben Cairn, when a driveshaft broke, denying them a likely third place finish. While the Garriochs had a lengthy overnight rebuild of their damaged Mirage, Kaitler and Searcy had little more than filling the fuel tank to do before fronting the start line on Sunday morning.

Again the two Cyborg-mounted crews swapped stage times but Kaitler/Searcy took the lead mid-morning, and nothing that the Garriochs could do in the two-stage shortened event enabled them to run down Kaitler who won the day by just 3.9 seconds.

With traction on the muddy uphill stages working against the front wheel drive cars, times bore little resemblance to the previous day’s times and it was a relief for all crews to get to the finish unscathed. Provisional results show the Garrioch duo as winners of the P2 class in this year’s Australian Rally Championship.

Results: P2 class
Heat 1:    
1. Brenton Kaitler/Ben Searcy    1h09m08.4s
Heat 2:    
1. Brenton Kaitler/Ben Searcy    46m.15.5s
2. Lee Garrioch/Ken Garrioch    46m.19.4s
3. Doug Wright/Mark Berndt       47m.24.5s

Simon and Margot Knowles brought their Suzuki Baleno (registered PUP 555!) all the way from Queensland and spent a lonely event as the sole P3 entrants. In conditions that would have been very different to those they normally experience in the Sunshine State, the pair nevertheless had an excellent run to the finish.

They finished 20th on Saturday and 21st the following day, a creditable result considering the weather, and not all that much behind the much more powerful P2 cars ahead of them.

Photos: Peter Whitten

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