Tyre challenges and a cancelled stage curtailed Subaru do Motorsport team’s podium plans on heat one of The Courier Eureka Rally, Victoria, today.
In the first round of the 2018 CAMS Australian Rally Championship, Subaru driver Molly Taylor and new co-driver Malcolm Read, made good progress across the day’s first two stages in the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti, prepared by Les Walkden Rallying (LWR) for the third consecutive season.
Taylor and Read face a revitalised challenge in 2018 against the trio of lightweight AP4 cars of Harry Bates (Toyota), Eli Evans (Mini Cooper) and Adrian Coppin (Peugeot), plus the new privateer challenger Steve Glenney, campaigning the ex-LWR WRX Sti that Subaru do Motorsport took to victory in the 2016 championship.
The Subaru pair ranked fifth on their first competitive stage together – SS1 Mount Hope 1 – over 9.60 kilometres.
Confidence was growing for Subaru do on SS2 Paradise 1, with a third place elevating Taylor and Read to third overall.
However, an unusual turn of events on the third stage saw an immediate cancellation after reports of a public vehicle in the vicinity of the stage, shortly after Taylor had driven through.
And there was further frustration on SS4 Bullarto 1, when a slow front puncture cost the Subaru pair several minutes as they were forced to change the wheel – demoting them to 16th on stage and 12th overall – three minutes 34.6 seconds behind leader Bates.
The pair remained positive going into middle-of-day service and resolved to aim for a top six finish in the heat.
Indeed, fifth on the repeat of short-haul Mount Hope (SS5) immediately showed intent, with three stages remaining.
Then the revisit of long-distance Paradise (SS6) presented the opportunity to re-set the day, placing fifth on stage and rocketing the pair up to sixth overall.
Confidence restored, a third place on the day’s penultimate stage, SS7, entrenched their sixth place.
Fifth on SS8 concluded a tough day in the office and was sufficient to secure fifth overall in heat one.
Molly said: “Over three minutes to make up after the morning was a big ask, but to work our way back up to fifth was pleasing after we lost so much time.
“The good news is that Malcolm and I clicked instantly in our competition debut, so we’re feeling confident that our teamwork in the car is a good match.”
Read’s debut with Subaru do re-establishes a proud Kiwi connection with Subaru’s Australian rallying activities that date back to the late Possum Bourne’s remarkable run of ARC wins, taking seven consecutive titles from 1996-2002.
Sunday’s heat two covers a further eight competitive stages over 89.02 km.