Following a massive opening to the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) in Canberra last month, the championship returns with a bang as it finally heads west for the 2022 Make Smoking History Forest Rally.
After COVID-19 and border restrictions prevented the national championship from visiting Western Australia over the past two years, this weekend will mark its return for the first time since April, 2019.
And to mark the occasion, a healthy entry list of 68 crews are entered in the three-day rally where they will take on 182 competitive kilometres spread over 17 stages – starting on Friday night with four Super Special Stages in Bunbury.
Saturday serves as the biggest day with 120 competitive kilometres and eight stages, while the event will wrap up on Sunday with half that distance across five stages – the final outing being the EROAD Power Stage.
As for the entry list, there will be no shortage of talent taking part in both the ARC and the Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship components.
Richie Dalton and Dale Moscatt, Arron Windus and Daniel Brkic, Eli Evans and Adam Wright, Troy Dowel and Bernie Webb, Tom Clarke and Ryan Preston – some of the nation’s top contenders have booked their place for the second round.
Having tough starts to the year in Canberra, the likes of Evans, Dowel and Windus will all be keen to reignite their seasons. Evans will be confident of a strong result having enjoyed a victory there back in 2018.
As for Clarke and Dalton, they ended up with solid points in the opener and built the foundations for a solid season with fifth and seventh respectively.
With previous experience of his own in WA from last time out, Dalton was itching to get that maiden podium on the national stage.
“I am going for my first ever podium and that is 100 per cent my goal for the weekend,” Dalton said.
“It might be a big goal, but I need to keep it high because I am investing a lot of time and money in the round so it has to be about aiming high.”
The two Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia crews each fit under one of the categories above – Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin having had a big off on the first day of the Netier National Capital Rally and keen to have a big result.
Their teammates on the other hand in Harry Bates and John McCarthy will be hoping to continue their incredible winning streak of eight ARC rounds that began at this same event in 2019.
As for the local talent, there is quite an impressive collection of WA based crews entered into the round and ready to pit themselves against the best in Australia.
Some of those include John O’Dowd, young gun Max McRae, Jack Flanagan, Glen Alcorn and Garry Mills, however none of them are as raw as some of the ARC’s newest debutants.
Both former circuit racers, Daniel Gonzalez and Alex Rullo will enter the round having little to no experience on gravel rally and both will be using the weekend as a learning experience.
For Rullo, the former Supercars driver was excited for his new journey.
“I am pretty stoked to get to do this because I have always wanted to try gravel rallying since I started racing cars and I feel I am returning to where I first started,” Rullo said.
“It’s going to be a massive learning experience and I think the biggest challenge will be learning how to listen to Steve and understand the notes because I am not the best listener and it’s all foreign to me.”
There will be plenty of spectator points throughout the weekend, while those who can’t make it can tune into 7Plus for the live broadcast of the EROAD Power Stage and a 60-minute event highlights show in the weeks after.
Fans unable to attend the event will also be able to keep up to date with the live results and news via the ARC Live Blog.
The Make Smoking History Forest Rally takes place in Bunbury and Nannup on 20-22 May.