Tom Clarke will make an intriguing switch from a Ford Fiesta R5 to his old-school Datsun Stanza in his ARC return for the PowerPlay Adelaide Hills Rally this October.
A disappointing year in the Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) prompted the change to the 2WD Classic entry, with the formidable Fiesta undergoing a series of upgrades ahead of the 2024 ARC season.
The New South Welshman first debuted the Stanza back at the Alpine Rally of East Gippsland in 2022, before picking up its first win at the Rally of the Bay earlier this year.
Clarke has since developed the car ahead of its ARC debut in less than a month’s time in South Australia, and most recently spent time behind the wheel of his latest project at the 2023 Midstate Freight Bathurst Rally just last weekend.
Ahead of his first appearance at the PowerPlay Adelaide Hills Rally, Clarke was looking forward to debuting the Stanza and experiencing the fast, flowing roads the Adelaide Hills has on offer.
“I am really looking forward to competing in Adelaide with the Stanza. We are usually in the Fiesta, but given the challenging year we’ve had so far, we decided to take the opportunity to undergo some upgrades to the car,” Clarke said.
“Since we haven’t accrued any points this year and are not in contention, it doesn’t make sense to push the other car when it’s not fully ready.
“But instead of missing out entirely, we thought we could bring the Stanza along instead. It was built last year, we debuted in the Alpine Rally and we’ve been developing it since.
“We’ve participated in some test events and secured our first major win about six weeks ago, which was great to see.
“We’re very excited about this car, as it garnered attention on social media during its build and I believe the roads in South Australia will suit it well. I can’t wait to showcase it.”
While the Clarke Stanza hasn’t featured in an ARC event before, Clarke was confident it will be competitive in both class and outright competition.
“We expect to be competitive, not only in the classic category but also aiming to break into the top 10 overall,” Clarke explained.
“If I can find a good rhythm, I believe we can even push further. The roads are open, fast-flowing, and short so it will suit the car well.
“The car has exceeded my expectations in terms of speed and responsiveness, while recently adding the six-speed sequential gearbox was the final piece of the puzzle.
“I want to gain experience on these roads and build an understanding for next year when we take another shot at the main championship. It’s our first time in South Australia, and I’m eager to start.
“The primary focus for us this year is to overcome the frustrations we’ve faced with the Fiesta, which has been plagued by issues beyond our control. We want to enjoy the racing again.
“It would be fantastic to see an older car like this competing closer to the front, and it would be quite an accomplishment if we achieve that.”
The ARC Classic Cup title race is currently topped by David Thompson in the Mazda RX7 with 355 points, ahead of his son Ivan Thompson with 236 points.
The next round of Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship will be PowerPlay Adelaide Hills Rally on 13-15 October.
Photos: Aaron Wishart & David McIntee