Jamie and Simon Vandenberg have won the second round of the Dunlop-Motul Tasmanian Rally Championship, the Tall Timbers Hellyer Rally. The second oldest, and arguably most experienced crew showed their younger rivals a clean pair of heals in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. IX as they drove a fast and clean rally to emerge as the victors of the event. In doing so, they also claimed the treasured Victor Huddlestone Memorial Trophy.
Tim Auty and Jon Mitchell looked to be certain winners in their Mazda 323 GTR, until it’s dreaded reliability issues again came to the fore. Having created a lead of over half a minute heading into the penultimate stage, the Mazda suffered differential issues which dropped them to thirteenth in the TRC field. The Vandenbergs inherited first place, and stayed there by winning the final three stages, which were regarded as the most slippery of the rally.
Stephen Maguire and Stuart Benson drove a consistent rally in their Evo 5. The duo stayed out of trouble, and finished every stage in the top five, netting them second overall for the weekend. Bodie Reading and Alex Malcolm took the lead after the first two stages, but was overhauled in stage three by Auty. The next two stages saw an excursion through a farmer’s fence and into a field on the penultimate corner on stage four which cost time, whilst an altercation with a tree in stage five further cruelled his chances. They were able to hold on for third with a second hand looking WRX. Kurt Wylie and Elli Wilson did well to hold onto fourth outright, with their Subaru struggling with an intermittent cut out during the day. 2016 champions Keith Abblitt and Adrian Hodgetts had to withdraw from the debut of their new Evo 8 due to centre-differential issues and co-driver illness.
In the Buckby Subaru Challenge it was expected that Nic Grave and Ben Newman would continue their battle with Grave winning the first stage and Newman hitting back to claim the second. However, the rest of the field had other ideas. Targa podium getter Michael Pritchard and Adam Butler had a large impact to the rear on stage one, but continued on, winning three stages to secure second for the event.
Crichton Lewis and Anthony Carr also performed strongly to secure a stage win and finish third overall. Bill Fulton and Jason Milner showed impressive pace before an off road excursion saw them fall out of contention but the cruelest blow was for Newman. After winning heat 1 by 1.2 seconds, Newman and co-driver Steve Glenney crashed and became stuck on stage five, which handed Grave and co-driver Reubecca Sheldrick the win and fifth outright.
In the two wheel drive category, a close contest was anticipated between championship leaders Stephen Turner and Mitch Newton in a Ford Fiesta R2, and local team Kade Barrett and David Guest in their Plymouth Fire Arrow. Barrett won the first stage in convincing fashion before he lost four minutes with throttle issues on stage two. It was expected that Turner would overtake the stricken Fire Arrow on the stage, however he became bogged on the side of the road before reaching Barrett. He lost 40 minutes and any chance of outright victory. This left the Datsun 1600 of Mark Kyle and the Daihatsu Charade of Aidan Peterson to battle it out for the first heat, with Kyle the victor by six seconds. However, the drive of the day belonged to Barrett. Chasing hard, he made up over three minutes to finish third in Heat 1. In Heat 2, Barrett set a string of top five stage times, including a second fastest, to elevate him to sixth outright for the event and third in Heat 2. Kyle and Peterson continued their close duel, with Kyle beating Peterson by 14 seconds to be second two wheel drive home.
In the fight for the Dunlop-Motul Tasmanian Rally Championship, Bodie Reading and Alex Malcolm extended their overall advantage, with Nic Grave, Ben Newman and Stephen Turner fighting for second place. The championship moves to Launceston on the 27th-29th of July for Subaru Rally Tasmania and the return of the CAMS Australian Rally Championship to the state of Tasmania.
The Tall Timbers Hellyer Rally will be one of the most fiercely contested in years this weekend, with a quality field assembling to tackle the smooth forest roads west of Smithton. Teams will contest 8 competitive stages and 140 kilometres of roads in the Dunlop-Motul Tasmanian Rally Championship’s second event in 2018.
Championship leaders Bodie Reading and Alex Malcolm will start as the favourite in his Subaru Impreza after winning the first round in fine fashion, however, they will need to re-adjust to blind-rally navigation, with their last road book event being the Hellyer last year.
Chasing Reading is a field of strong challengers. Tim Auty will be looking to put his round 1 mechanical gremlins behind him and again challenge Reading for the win in his Mazda 323 GTR. Former champions Jamie Vandenberg (Mitsubishi Evo 9) and Keith Abblitt (Mitsubishi Evo 8) will also be in contention for the win, as will young duo Kurt Wylie (Subaru Impreza) and Steve Maguire (Mitsubishi Evo 5).
In the Buckby Subaru Challenge, all eyes will be on the enthralling duel between Ben Newman and Nic Grave. Newman won the Southern Safari Rally by a very small margin, however, Grave is competing in home territory and will be hard to beat. Targa Tasmania podium finisher Mike Pritchard is a welcome return to the series for this round, and produced strong results in his previous event, whilst Crichton Lewis will be looking to avenge his DNF from round one.
Stephen Turner currently leads the two wheel drive class in his Ford Fiesta R2 after a strong showing in round one, however, he will have a number of strong challengers for the class win. Fresh from a podium finish at the Alpine Rally of East Gippsland, Kade Barrett will enter his rare Plymouth Fire Arrow and should be hard to beat. Entries from Aidan Peterson (Daihatsu Charade), Mark Kyle (Datsun 1600) and Bill Cromarty (Mitsubishi Lancer) further enhance a quality two wheel drive field.
The first car will leave the Tall Timbers Resort in Smithton at 10:00am on Saturday, the 9th of June.
Spectator Guides are available at Tall Timbers and tasrally.com.au
The information and views set out in the listed articles are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Tasmanian Rally Championship, associated partners, the Tasmanian Rally Panel or its member clubs.