Crews left from the main street in Eildon early enough to be greeted with mist and fog and the prospect of wet roads. High winds and rain in the area the day before had brought down 15 trees on to the course that had to be cleared by the organisers.
Windus, driving an all wheel drive Subaru WRX was forced to slow with more than 30 km left in the last stage when the front differential broke leaving the Subaru with rear wheel drive only and the gearbox without oil. To the crew’s amazement the car did not stop and they finished only 6 seconds behind the Mitsubishi Evo 9 of Wal Lee and David Lethlean.
Lee and Lethlean who are considered Windus’s main rival for this year’s title had a disastrous start to their challenge when they too suffered a driveline failure on stage 2, forcing them to miss the next 3 stages and score no points from heat 1.
That left the other top 4 wheel drive crews like Viv Dilkes-Frayne, Andrew Pannam, Paul Eccles, Ivan Register, Mike Evans and newcomer Andrew Murdoch to take it up to Windus and while each showed good speed, none could consistently challenge Windus’s times and put him under pressure. Eccles was out after heat 1 with a blown turbo, Pannam’s challenge faltered on stage 9 with rear suspension failure and Murdoch’s also on the last stage with similar suspension failure as he nursed it through to the finish.
Dilkes-Frayne took the honours for 2nd outright but it was the 2 wheel drive Classic Ford Escort of Grant Walker that snuck in for 3rd, the result of consistently good stage times for the whole event.
In taking 3rd place Grant Walker has upset the natural order in the Two Wheel Drive Championship, taking full points away with him and extinguishing the early challenge from the current champion Brian Semmens and title aspirant Tony Moore, both from Bendigo. Neither of those could challenge Walker’s consistency in the damp conditions but it was Neil Schey (Escort) and Andrew Daniell (Stanza) who stepped up fill out the 2 wheel drive podium and in doing so took 5th and 6th outright.
In the development category, the Our Auto Hyundai Excel series the honours narrowly went to Luca Giacomin after the leader going in to the final Stephen Eccles stage, was forced to stop and change a tyre that he had rolled off the rim.
The next round of the Championship, the Border Oils & Batteries Mitta Mitta Mountain Rally takes place on May 14. The 2016 Golden trout Hotel Motel Eildon Stages Rally is presented by the Nissan Car Club and is sanctioned by the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS)