“When the rules changed to allow four-wheel drives to compete against the two-wheel drives for the Australian Rally Championship again that really made me pause and consider what the best path forward was,” explains Dalton.
Having burst onto the scene as a relative newcomer to the sport, Dalton quickly established himself with his fast and flamboyant driving style in his distinctive red, yellow and green Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.
Making a brief, but spectacular appearance at this year’s National Capital Rally Dalton heavily damaged the Evo following a rollover on the opening day, accelerating the plans he’d already formed in his mind.
“I knew straight after we went over that roll in Canberra that I wasn’t going to spend the time fixing the Evo. Pretty much that week I put in place the plans I had been thinking about,” said Ritchie.
His decision saw him commit to a ‘prototype’ Ford Fiesta body shell, fabricated in Poland, to accept the running gear from a Mitsubishi Evo, similar to the Hyundai i20 run this season by Justin Dowel.
“It was a six-month wait for the body shell alone, so I knew I had to get a move on to ensure I had plenty of time. I’m pretty much buying a World Rally Car shell; even the turret tops on the car are the same as the factory Fiesta’s. The detail in the car is amazing!”
“Underneath it’ll be all Evo 9, so it’s parts my team are all very familiar,” added Dalton.
With the body shell nearing completion, and ready to begin its long journey to Australia from Poland, Dalton is already planning the next steps ahead.
“The key for me is giving myself plenty of time to get the car ready, test it completely and arrive at it’s first ARC Round ready to fight immediately for wins. I don’t see any point in arriving with an underprepared car and getting frustrated when things go wrong.”
“When the car is ready I’ll probably run it as a zero car in some State Rounds or blind rallies. I’ve spoken with Neal Bates and Murray Coote about helping me set it up too, they are both very interested to see the car and help out where they can.”
So will we see Dalton’s Ford Fiesta during the 2016 season?
“Honestly, it’d be unlikely,” said Richie. “I want to hit the ground running and be ready to fight for the 2017 Championship. That’s my goal, that’s what I’m working towards.”