Aaron Bowering and Heath Weedon have started off the 2019 CAMS South Australian Rally Championship on a high after claiming a classic victory in the South West Stages.
The Subaru WRX pilots enjoyed an intense three-way battle with fellow Impreza pilots Zayne Admiraal and Matthew Heywood and Jamie Pohlner and Ken Moore in the WRX, but came out on top after a thrilling final two stages.
With 14 cars competing across 12 stages in Heywood, Victoria, Admiraal drew first blood to take out the first stage in what was the perfect start to his title defence.
Bowering responded straight away with his own stage win, coming in two seconds ahead of Admiraal to tie the lead, while Pohlner split the drivers on the stage to sit just two seconds behind the two in third.
In the third stage, Bowering and Pohlner shared the spoils two seconds ahead of Admiraal to send the defending champion to equal second as Bowering looked to continue his hot form and build a gap.
He did just that in the fourth stage, finishing 12 seconds ahead of Pohlner in second and a further two seconds ahead of Admiraal who had slipped to outright third behind Pohlner.
Pohlner finally got some reward for his pressure after winning the fifth stage. It may have only been two seconds ahead of Bowering, but with Admiraal finishing a further seven seconds behind the leader, the rally was fast slipping from Admiraal’s grasp.
In the sixth stage, the reigning champions took out a much needed win and managed to reduce the deficit to 13 seconds at the halfway point. A poor stage from Pohlner saw him finish 17 seconds behind Admiraal and back into third place.
In a gallant effort, Pohlner bounced back straight away to grab the seventh stage and a crucial one second lead ahead of Admiraal to move back into second place. With Bowering finishing second in the stage, he continued to build on his 17-second lead.
However a brilliant eighth stage from Admiraal saw the champion storm into top spot, just one second ahead Bowering as the battle for first intensified.
On SS9 and SS10, both Bowering and Admiraal claimed a stage win with a margin of seven seconds each, while Pohlner’s charge for top spot ended up after finishing more than 10 seconds behind the leaders on both stages.
With only two stages remaining and one second separating the two Imprezas, the event was won and lost in the 11th stage as the Bowering finished 28 seconds ahead of Admiraal and producing an almost attainable lead for the final stage.
Despite being out of reach, Admiraal showed a fighting spirit and won the final stage but it was too little too late and last year’s runner-up ended the event 20 seconds behind Bowering.
Pohlner finished the day 45 seconds behind Admiraal but was handed penalty after an incident in the first stage, which saw him finish more then two minutes behind the runner-up.
Behind the wheel of the Datsun 1600, Kevin Millard and Adam Branford were the best of the rest and claimed the P6 class, while fourth seeds Dale Cagney and Mark Dycer steered their Mitsubishi Lancer to fifth place.
Finishing just inside the top 10, Michael Nixon and Jim McGough ended the day with the Classic Class victory and one spot ahead of CRC class winners Mark Povey and Gavin Fowler.
The next round of the 2019 CAMS South Australian Rally Championship takes place in Eudunda for the Copyworld Walky 100 Rally on 29 June.