At just over seven kilometres it was affected by incredibly still conditions that led to some concerns about dust. With Scouts Rally SA recently running their own night stage, at over twenty kilometres, rally.com.au caught up with some of the leading Australian Championship drivers to gauge their opinion.
“It was a ball of fun, I had such a great time,” exclaimed Mick Patton. “I can’t put my finger on exactly what I enjoyed so much about it, I think it was a combination of doing something new, the physical challenge and just the adventure of it all.”
“If they said every rally was going to have a couple of night stages I think I’d be right behind that, I loved it!”
At the other end of the scale fellow National 4WD competitor Mark Pedder.
“I’m probably a bit against it,” said Mark Pedder. “The concern I have is how it becomes such a lottery, and if you’re in a Championship fight with the guy whose first car on the road, well he has a massive advantage against you in those conditions.”
“The pace that we’re going now, on notes, in the dark with dust. I know we have to be adaptable, that’s what rallying is all about, but it just adds that other aspect to it that we just don’t need.”
“From a spectacle point of view, for the spectators, all you get is bright head lights in your eyes and a trail of nothing but dust, so it probably doesn’t work from that point of view either,” Pedder added.
With any gravel stage, be it day lit or night, running as the opening car on the road is a distinct advantage, something Eli Evans was happy to point out.
“It’s nice being car one for sure,” laughed Eli. “The organisers did the right thing bringing the gaps out to four minutes to try to make it even for everybody.”
“I really enjoyed the night – after the first four or five corners you start to worry about how little you can see, but then but the end, when you’re really in tune with the pace notes, it’s really a lot of fun.”
“Is it something that should be a bigger part of the ARC? I’m not so sure, that’s up to the event organisers and collective group of competitors to decide if they want to do night rallying on a more regular basis.”
And what about fellow Citroen driver Adrian Coppin, for or against night rallying?
“When I first started I used to really enjoy night stages,” said Adrian. “But the last couple I’ve done, at Rally Australia, and again here in South Australia, I don’t know, it suddenly feels very risky.”
“I don’t think people think how much money we spend to go rallying, and we are battling for sheep stations, so I don’t think people appreciate how much is at stake especially between running car one on the road versus all those following potentially hitting dust.”
“I think it’s a double sided sword, there is a lot to consider, and we’re seeing that in the WRC at the moment. I don’t think we’re any different.”
So mixed opinions from the ARC regulars, but with Rally Australia and Scouts Rally SA already confirming plans to use evening stages again in 2016 it looks like drivers had better get used to it, night rallying looks like it’s here to stay.