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Nathan Hubble sat down with the 2013 Victorian Rally Champions, Tristan Penhall and his co-driver and partner Jolie Middelton, and discussed their 2013 season and what lies ahead for them in 2014 and beyond.

Tristan, Jolie, the 2013 VRC champions, how does it feel?
TP: It feels fantastic, it’s been a few months since the last round at Rally Victoria where we secured the title but we're still on a high. It was our goal right from the first round to drive sensibly and to get as many points as we could at each round. You can't win the championship if you first don't finish events.

What’s in store for "Penhall Motorsport" in 2014?
JM: Unfortunately we haven't been able to find funding for the George Derrick Rally, so we are currently trying to seek support to compete in the rest of the VRCs. If we can't get the level of support we need, we'll probably just do the pacenoted VRCs and let the bank accounts recover.

2013 was a hard fought battle. Did you ever feel like the championship wasn't going to be yours?
TP: Our goal for the year was to win the championship in our new car. So apart from hitting a rock in the first heat at East Gippsland Stages, we finished all the other heats on the podium and won the last five heats straight, so you could say we were fairly confident. Although, as we all know, nothing is ever easy or for sure in rallying, so the pressure was still there.

The VRC has a fairly diverse range of events and stages within those events. What would be your favorite rally and/or stage from the VRC, past or present?
TP: Easily the best road we drove on last year was Warrangabell at Bega Valley Rally. My favorite rally as a whole would be the Akademos due to the simple format, short transports and fast stages.
JM: Akademos has always been my favorite rally. It's a true test of driver and co-driver team dynamics at a high speed.

You mentioned before that the bank balance was looking a little rough around the edges from last year. If money was no object, what rally car would you have in the shed?
TP: Group B Audi Quattro

When you’re not spending all your money on the car, what’s your favorite holiday destination?
JM: Kimberleys, WA (unanimous), but the Murray River near Echuca is cheaper and easier to get to for a weekend.

Tristan, we all see you guys at the start of rallies and generally get to have some pretty good chats, but tell us something about Jolie we don't know?
TP: She used to play State League Netball for Tasmania.

Jolie, your turn...tell us something about Tristan we don't know?
JM: He pulled his first engine apart and put it back together when he was five years old, hence why he now does all the work on our car on his own,including engine building, gearbox rebuilds, etc.  All self-taught!

We know the VRC is a fantastic championship, run by some very hard working volunteers, but if you could change one thing about the VRC what would it be?
TP: All events should be pacenoted as we believe they make for a much safer event.

With the onslaught of social media these days what’s the most incorrect news story or rumor you’ve ever heard about yourself?
TP: This year at Bega it was posted on the internet that our car rolled when we were actually still going quite okay, which scared our family and friends.
JM: Or that most people think we're loaded when actually we predominantly support our rallying with only our wages and a lot of sacrifice.

Rate your top three biggest rivals and what made them so challenging to compete against this past year?
TP/ JM: The Raymonds - they're amazingly quick and seem to always be able to step up into to the next gear when required. We really hope they can continue to run in some form as competing against them is always a challenge we look forward to.
The likeable larrikins, Warren Lee and David Leathlean, were always there and ever so unpredictable, making it so challenging to know how hard to push to beat them.
And Kenway and Palmer - they're generally super consistent so you just don't know how hard you need to push to keep in front of them, so they're always ones to watch.

Finally if you were to create your own championship, what five rallies would it contain?
TP: Akademos, Rally Bonnie Doon, Rally Victoria, Scouts Rally SA, Bega Valley Rally (but pacenoted).

Tristan and Jolie thank you for your time. We hope that 2014 is another successful year for the two of you, and let’s hope we can see you out there in the forests again soon.

Article: Nathan Hubble
Image: Hubble Photografix

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