West Australians to watch at Rally Australia
- 13th November 2016, 10:22pm
The final round of the World Rally Championship (WRC), the Kennards Hire Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour, starts next week and although the WRC has already been won by Volkswagon Motorsport’s Sebastien Ogier (France), the real battle to watch is in the Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship (ARC) where just six points separates first, second and third with two Western Australians in the mix to contest title honours.
Leading the ARC is Simon Evans with his WA co-driver Ben Searcy in a 1998 Subaru Imprezza. Searcy, who debuted as Evan’s co-driver at Rally Australia in 2012, said that they would be pushing for a win.
“I’ve never won the ARC, Simon has four times. It’s a close battle and I’m looking forward to it – the stages there are great, even if the event lacks the atmosphere of Rally Australia when it was held in Perth.”
“After Rally of South Australia, the car was unscathed, which means the team have had time to go over it and make improvements, ready for Rally Australia rather than spend time fixing it. The car is looking good.”
If all goes to plan, Simon Evans could be the oldest person to win the ARC.
In second place on the ARC leader board by five points is Subaru do’s Molly Taylor with WA co-driver and seasoned rally professional Bill Hayes. This will be Hayes’ 30th WRC event.
“The surface of the stages are abrasive and tyre wear will be a big issue. This year weather could be factor given it is November - there’s a chance of rain, and when it rains there, it can be significant rain,” Hayes said.
“Nambucca is one of the best stages in WRC - it’s 50km long, fast and flowing but there are also tighter technical stages too. We’re in the current model WRX STI, which has some advantages over older cars.
“Given the close battle and what’s at stake, I’m feeling a bit nervous – more so than any other rally. I’ve come second in the ARC four times, and we came second last year too – the last thing I want is another bridesmaid dress!”
Third on the ARC leader board is Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy who trail Taylor and Hayes by just one point. At 21 years of age, Bates could be the youngest ever winner of the ARC.
Other Western Australians to follow in Rally Australia include winner of the 2016 Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship (WARC) Dylan King making his WRC event debut.
“I’m not too sure what to expect - it’s been such a rush since we decided to go, I haven’t thought about the driving yet. Once the car leaves, I’ll be able concentrate. I’ll be looking at footage from past events including the on-board vision to try to get some knowledge of the stages,” King said.
“My usual co-driver Abbey Hayes can’t make it to Coffs due to exams, so Daymon Nicoli will be my co-driver. Daymon has done three WRC events in Coffs Harbour, so his knowledge and experience will help.
“The car is just about ready - it needed a lot of work before Rally Australia, let’s just say it’s had a big birthday.
“My aim is to try to be as competitive as we can and to finish my first WRC event.”
WA duo Brad Markovic and co-driver Glenn Macneall in a Subaru Imprezza WRX STI are also competing in the ARC, albeit out of contention for a podium place in the championship.
Driver Markovic said he is looking to finish the year on a high with a good result at Rally Australia.
“I’m seriously excited and can’t wait to jump in the car. We had a positive Rally South Australia and showed some good speed there and I’m looking forward to the great stages in Coffs.
“My mental preparation has been good and I’ll be pushing, no worries about that, but taking a measured approach. It’s a three-day rally so I’ll be looking for a good clean run, to get into a good rhythm in the fast flowing stages and in the tighter technical ones. I’m hoping it’ll be a dry rally - Canberra was wet, Queensland was diabolical and South Australia was cut short it was so wet!”
Co-driver Glenn Macneall said it’s always good to compete in an international event and Rally Australia is a great three-days.
“We’re hoping to achieve consistency and pace. Brad [Markovic] drove a good event in South Australia with pace. When he’s driving well, he’s capable of top three times,” Macneall said.
“We’re competitive and always comparing our times to others whether against Australians or internationals. But we know when we’ve done a good a job and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
Rally Australia starts on Friday 18 November and finishes on Sunday 20 November held in and around the NSW mid-north coastal city of Coffs Harbour. Competitors will travel over 1,040 kilometres over three days that includes 312.98 competitive kilometres in 23 stages. The shortest stage, the Destination NSW Super Special is just 1.27 kilometres and will be the closing stage on Friday and Saturday, and the longest is Nambucca, which is 50.8 kilometres long.
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