Wet weather takes its toll on Tassie Shakedown
- 3rd October 2008, 4:24pm
It was supposed to be a fun experience for competitors, sponsors and fans, but the Official Shakedown of the Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge had major implications for two of the leading drivers today.
Melbourne driver Justin Dowel’s event ended before it even started. His Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 slid off the road and into a tree on the short 1.2 kilometre test stage at Highclere, severely damaging the rear-end of his car and ending his hopes for the weekend.
Michael Guest, driving the Subaru Impreza WRX of Launceston’s Les Walkden Rallying, had a gearbox failure and was forced to cut his day short, but he will still make it to the start line in tomorrow morning, with crews fitting a new transmission to his car.
Justin Dowel’s team was devastated by their misfortune. Co-driver, Matt Lee, said the accident happened very quickly.
“It was on the very first corner of the Shakedown,” Lee said. “The car just lost grip and we slid backwards into a large tree.
“The car was severely damaged and we knew straight away that there would be no fixing it for this event.”
After going over the official start ramp at the Burnie Show on Friday night, cars will gather early on Saturday morning for the first of seven competitive stages, across 87.13 competitive kilometres.
In the battle for outright honours, the four-wheel drives of Tony Longhurst (Subaru), Burnie’s Jamie Vandenberg (Mitsubishi) and Tony Quinn (Mitsubishi) will not complain about further rain, while defending champion, Jim Richards, will be hoping for dry conditions in his two-wheel drive Porsche 911 GT2.
The Australian Rally Championship section of the event will be fascinating to watch, as fans witness which of the leading competitors, who normally race on dirt roads, handles the bitumen roads best.
The two Toyota drivers, Neal Bates and Simon Evans, are no strangers to Tasmanian roads, having both competed in Targa Tasmania earlier this year. Bates is leading the series, while Evans is the defending champion. Both would love to leave the state with the maximum 80 points on offer.
Spencer Lowndes, in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, and Guest, are the biggest challengers to the hopes of the Toyota team, and they are determined to finish off the season strongly.
“Today was a small set back with the gearbox, but it will count for nothing when we get to the start line tomorrow,” Guest said.
The boys did a fantastic job getting a new gearbox fitted and getting us to the start line. We’ve had a bit of bad luck across this season, so we’re hoping that is all behind us now.
“This is a home event for my Pirtek Les Walkden Rallying team, so we really want to do well for the boss (Les Walkden) and get on the podium at least, and on top of the dais would be nice.
“But we know the Toyotas will be quick, so we’ll have to be right on top of our game on every one of the 13 stages.”
The first stage starts at 8.03am at Mt Leslie, with a warm up stage before the real action gets underway with one of the biggest tests in tarmac rallying, Hellyer Gorge. Cars cross the finish line for the end of Heat One back in Burnie from 2pm. Sunday sees a further six stages and 87.85 competitive kilometres. The champagne finish is back at West Park in the city around 2.30pm.
Photos: Toyota, Nathan Hubble.
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