Subaru do Motorsport team faces an anxious overnight wait to see if it can retain the CAMS Australian Rally Championship after a drama-packed Leg Two of Kennards Hire Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.
Rain caused carnage on the day’s first stage, SS9 Nambucca, with one car even ending upside down in a creek and the crew being rescued by spectators.
Subaru do’s day ended prematurely on SS13 when engine problems put Molly Taylor and Bill Hayes out of contention for Leg 2 points.
The technical crew now face a major task to assess the issue and see if the team can re-start tomorrow’s final Leg 3, in a bid to accumulate more valuable points.
The day had begun with high hopes as the Les Walkden Rallying-prepared Production Rally Car class All-Wheel Drive WRX STI started SS9 – the longest stage of Rally Australia at 48.89 kilometres.
Regarded as an endurance test of reliability and concentration, SS9 was partially affected by heavy showers.
Taylor and Hayes secured third place, to maintain second overall behind the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX of main rival and rally leader Nathan Quinn.
Two more third places followed on SS10 and SS11, the Raceway Super Special Stage, which used a tight, technical local race circuit that tested crew nerves over 1.37 km in front of big crowds.
Morning service saw Taylor and Hayes exuding quiet confidence, reflected in their second place on the next stage, SS12.
But then disaster struck on SS13 when a sudden power loss and smoke trail indicated serious engine problems. The pair finished seventh on stage and the engine issues were sufficient to end their Leg 2.
Ironically, Quinn also encountered problems on SS13, finishing 11th on stage, but retaining the leader’s position.
With the next stage cancelled anyway due to damage to a bridge, only the evening run around Coffs Harbour Jetty remains for the other competitors.
Last night, a fourth place for Subaru do on the jetty Super Special Stage consolidated overall second on Leg 1, behind Quinn.
Molly said: “After a good start this morning it’s been a huge disappointment to have the engine issue this afternoon.
“Obviously, if we can resolve it overnight, we’ll do all we can tomorrow to claw back points and also see how Nathan’s going because, as today shows, anything’s possible in rallying, but we’d prefer to win on our terms.
“The frustrating thing is that while it’s my natural instinct to push harder at times, my head kept telling me to keep it steady today, with the bigger objective of the championship in mind.
“Up to SS13, the car was going great and the whole team had done everything possible to give us the edge we needed. But now we’re in a wait and see holding pattern.”
Sunday’s Leg 3 covers five stages over 64.64 km, wrapping up mid-afternoon.