Despite being faced with changeable conditions, the young pairing of Bodie Reading and Alex Malcolm have won the first round of the Dunlop-Motul Tasmanian Rally Championship, the Lifestyle Builders Southern Safari.
The pair won by over 5 minutes from their closest rival, but the large winning margin did not reflect the competition in the event. Tim Auty and Jon Mitchell provided close competition throughout the morning loops.
Their Mazda 323 GTR had been upgraded in the off-season with new gear ratios, resulting in better drivability. They won 4 of the first 6 stages to hold a 15 second lead over Reading into stage seven. Unfortunately, an indiscretion at the end of the stage resulted in damage to the front right and retirement.
With only two of the top five championship finishers in 2017 entering the event, there was opportunity for other crews to take the challenge up to the two leaders. Ben Newman and Steve Glenney drove consistently and fast all day. A push on the final stage saw them leap to second outright in the Subaru Impreza RS challenge car, a very impressive result which showed the capability of the one-make Buckby Subaru Challenge cars.
Third and first two wheel drive were Stephen Turner and Mitch Newton in a Ford Fiesta R2. The pair set third fastest times on the first two stages and were never out of the top six despite the slippery conditions favouring the four wheel drive vehicles.
Nic Grave had a number of challenges leading up to the event, including an eleventh hour co-driver change. With Gareth Sutcliffe substituting in his first ever gravel rally, the pair drove fast all day, and missed out on the podium by just 0.4 seconds in the second of the Buckby Subaru Challenge cars.
Fifth on his four wheel drive debut was Motor Magazine’s Scott Newman, who drove the guest Buckby Motorsport Impreza RS with Tim Kulhanek beside him. Returning to gravel competition for the first time in 26 years was Peter Nunn, in a borrowed Subaru Impreza RS. Despite the gap in competition, he set very impressive times including second outright in stage seven, however, fell out of contention with time lost through a roll over on stage eight. A rare mechanical DNF was also experienced for the Buckby Subaru Challenge cars with Crichton Lewis having to withdraw through heat one with fuel line issues.
The two wheel drive class was a race of attrition, with defending champion Matt How retiring his upgraded BMW M3 at the end of stage four with mechanical issues, whilst local hopeful David Oates rolled his Datsun 1600 in stage 3 whilst third in two wheel drive. Nathan Roddam and Nicole Bryan produced a giant killing effort in their Hyundai Excel over the high speed stages to finish second in the two wheel drive class.
The championship is set to move to the opposite side of Tasmania for Round 2. The classic Hellyer Rally, run by the North West Car Club, is scheduled for May 12 in Smithton.
Photos courtesy of Angryman Photography.
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.