After a solid start to the 2023 Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC), Victorian Ben and Catherine Hayes will be looking to make it two class wins in a row.
Behind the wheel of the popular Subaru BRZ, the Hayes were highly consistent during the Buckby ŠKODA Rally Launceston as they picked up victories in both heats for the ARC 2WD Cup.
Standing in the husband-wife duo’s way for back-to-back 2WD wins at this month’s Make Smoking History Forest Rally are four other crews – three of which are locals and will know the WA roads well, which could make this an intriguing battle.
Joining Hayes as the only 2WD interstater attending WA is youngster Josh Wiedman, who is also cross-entered in the Shamrock Haulage ARC Junior Cup.
Wiedman is at the start of his career in the ARC, having previously run in just one event – last year’s Supercheap Auto Coffs Coast Rally where he was unable to finish the round.
His Fiesta has since been upgraded with a turbo and although he is still a rookie, he remains a serious chance to claim a class podium.
Leading the local defence is another Ford Fiesta driven by McCrory Mechanical’s Paul McCrory and Murish O’Connell. While he hasn’t had a major impact in the ARC, he still knows the taste of victory having won the P6 class in the 2020 Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship.
In addition to Wiedman and McCrory, the other Ford Fiesta in the 2WD Field, belongs to David Smith and Rodger Pederson.
Smith has been a long time contributor to the organisational side of the rally, but he has finally returned to the driver’s seat, where he will be sitting on the left hand side.
Although he has acknowledged he won’t be the fastest of the five crews, Smith’s substantial knowledge of the roads and stages are likely to prove advantageous for him.
“Having been event secretary for so long, the change is going to be awesome and I am really excited for the challenge of driving on the left-hand-side too,” Smith said.
“Our sponsors were quite keen for us to get out there and run in the outright ARC, so we took on the challenge and now we’re looking forward to having some fun.
“With that said, I am under no illusion about where we are at. If I come fifth, I will be happy as I now have age and treachery as opposed to youth and exuberance. We have no aspiration to be the best, we just want to have fun.
“However, it’s quite obvious that anyone from WA has an advantage. For years, people have been saying WA has the most unique surfaces in the country and us locals know the roads better than anyone else.
“Josh, for example, is coming over and it will be a completely different surface to what he is used to. Of course, he will be quick, but he will need to make sure he does the test so he can come to grips with the surface quickly.
“I am looking forward to going up against the BRZ – they are a fantastic handling package, and I am sure the crowds will get a lot of excitement during the spectator stages.
“All in all, it’s all great competition and there is a strong field in the 2WDs and in general as 34 crews are the most we have had in a really long time.”
Rounding out the ARC 2WD Cup is Todd Payne and Jeremy Edwards with the tackle the event behind the wheel of a Nissan Silvia S15.
The Make Smoking History Forest Rally takes place in and around Bunbury, Busselton and Nannup on 19-21 May.
Photo: Unlabelled Photography