This year’s Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland will welcome the biggest ARC Classic Cup field of the 2023 Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) season.
Four crews will battle it out in the special machinery of yesteryear over the two-day spectacle, which will see some regulars, a class winner and an ARC debutant all part of the action.
Headlining the field will be current ARC Classic Cup leader David Thompson, who will be alongside his regular co-driver Matthew Sanders in the Mazda RX7.
The duo enters the event with a commanding lead in the class having won two out of a possible four heats in the season so far.
Their most recent Heat win came in emphatic fashion at the Make Smoking History Forest Rally – a 13-minute win over Thompson’s highly talented son Ivan.
Ivan was making his first ARC appearance for the year in WA, but wasn’t able to best his dad in either Heat, finishing the weekend with a third place and a runner-up respectively.
Still, while he wasn’t able to enjoy family bragging rights, Ivan and co-driver Nathan Quartermaine banked some valuable points towards their Classic Cup charge and ended the weekend in third place on the standings.
Of course, Ian Griffin will be one highly capable of spoiling the Thompson party, with the Queensland-based driver having enjoyed ARC round honours recently.
Griffin’s last ARC round was at the 2022 Supercheap Auto Coffs Coast Rally, where he and co-driver Liam Bainton steered their Toyota Celica to the Classic Cup win, beating David Thompson and Sanders in the process.
Griffin and Bainton will once again be behind the wheel of that same Celica, where they will undoubtedly challenge the Thompsons for round honours.
Rounding out the Classic Cup entry list will be ARC debutant Sharath Hegde, who will be behind the wheel of a Porsche 911.
While he has plenty to learn in his first ARC event, he has quite an experienced co-driver by his side in Kim Bessell – the Canberran having called the notes for Taylor Gill for half of the 2022 ARC season and Gandewa Sanders at the Forest Rally in May.
Ahead of the third ARC round of the season, Ivan Thompson was anticipating a tough battle between his Ford Falcon XT the other three cars.
“Dad has already thrown out the team orders to avoid taking him on, and to win the spectators, not the rally, so I think it’s a ploy for him,” Ivan said.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see what transpires and how the roads are – I have never done a gravel rally in Queensland before. All I know is that there is a lot of grip there.
“I am also relearning the car after some major upgrades following the Forest Rally. I also don’t think I will be faster than the seasoned competitors for Queensland. I had the home advantage in WA, but not here.
“I am up against some quick cars – especially the Toyota and the Porsche, which is a lightning bolt. Our car is quite heavy compared to these light cars with similar horsepower.
“With that said, I think we should be closer to them on the longer stages but they will be quite far ahead on the shorter ones – especially Ian and Dad who have a lot of experience.
“My battle will be for the final podium place. I certainly hope I can get one over the Porsche – All in all, I just want to get to the end and finish every stage.”
The Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland takes place in Gympie on 22-23 July.