Better late than never for Caves Classic winners Sullens and Newell

Tony Sullens and Kaylie Newell have pulled off a dramatic victory in the Midstate Freight Caves Classic Rally, taking out the win on the final stage of the event.

With 45 crews entered into the 2020 MTA Motorsport Australia New South Wales Rally Championship’s second round, the battle for top honours was between just three, which Sullens and Newell won in thrilling fashion.

The Citroen DS3 pilots’ biggest challengers came through eventual runners-up Mal Keough and Andrew Bennett in the Audi Quattro S1 and event favourites Tom Clarke and Jim Gleeson.

With both Keough and Clarke notching up stage wins early on, it was a slow start for Sullens and Newell and the duo only got on the board in the second half of the nine-stage rally with their first minor win coming on the sixth.

After getting their first stage win, they kicked into gear and put themselves right back into contention after picking up the biggest stage win of the day on the seventh with an empathic 14-second win over Keough and Bennett, who grabbed the overall lead themselves on that stage.

While Clarke and Gleeson bounced back with a stage win in the eighth and took back the lead from Keough and Bennett, Sullens and Newell’s fastest time on the final stage was enough to see them pip both crews above them and secure a two second victory.

“Who would have thought we would have won,” Sullens told Rally NSW post-event.

“We left nothing on the table on that last stage and just went as fast as we could go and the cards fell where they ended up.

“There were lots of people with problems but pure speed and cons gets you all there the time.

“The trick is to drive at elevenths-tenths and don’t crash and if you can do that for a whole rally then you will be there or thereabouts.

“Car hasn’t got a mark on it. I tried to crash the car all day and it didn’t happen but I am really happy.”

One of those crews to suffer issues were Clarke and Gleeson, with a disappointing final stage, where they sustained significant damage to a rear wheel, demoting them to third outright around nine seconds behind the ever-consistent Keough and Bennett.

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In fourth place were Ron and Jo Moore after the duo secured wins in the fourth and fifth stage, while 2017 RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship winner Nathan Quinn and co-driver Ray Winwood-Smith rounded out the top five.

Neither Keough nor Quinn went home empty handed though after both drivers secured class wins – Keough taking out the Open 4WD class and Quinn fastest out of the Open 2WD crews.

The 2020 MTA Motorsport Australia New South Wales Rally Championship continues later this month with the Kosciuszko Automotive Monaro Stages Rally on 31 October.