Home-town hero Quinn claims maiden Australian Rally Championship

Coffs Harbour’s own Nathan Quinn has claimed his first CAMS Australian Rally Championship in front of a passionate home-town crowd at this weekend’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

Quinn dominated the national field in the fifth and final ARC round, winning all three legs, taking 12 of 17 stage wins and claiming first outright by a staggering 13 minutes.

As an added bonus Quinn, with co-driver Ben Searcy, took it to the best rally drivers in the world, finishing ninth outright in the World Rally Championship field in his ten-year-old Mitsubishi EVO IX.

Today Quinn realised a long-term dream.

“I’m pretty sure I was born with a dream to go rallying,” Quinn said.

“Watching my dad compete when I was a kid, this day was the goal from the get go and now I’ve finished that for him.”

Amazingly, the 31-year-old revealed that it was only an off-hand comment by fellow driver Eli Evans that made him register for this year’s Australian Rally Championship.

“We went to the Eureka Rally to get a seed to do a classic rally we wanted to do,” Quinn explained.

“Eli Evans said ‘Quinny, you never know, you should just register for the championship’. So I borrowed $1500 bucks off my girlfriend, and paid it back by June. Then Neal Bates Motorsport helped me get to Perth. Then there was a bunch of Irish lads that chipped in for a new engine.

“We could not have asked for a better year in terms of support and here we are now. It was an unfortunate problem for Molly (Taylor) but a miracle for us.”

The five-round championship was not all smooth sailing for Quinn. His championship hopes looked dashed after round three when he failed to finish Canberra’s National Capital Rally when electrical gremlins stopped him roadside after the last stage, agonisingly close to the finish.

But a determined Quinn buckled down at Lightforce Rally SA and completed a clean sweep at the event, claiming his first ARC round win. The result gave him a glimmer of hope for the ARC title and he grabbed it with both hands.

Taylor’s championship defence ended before this morning’s first stage began. The Subaru do Motorsport team worked through the night to fix engine damage sustained in yesterday’s penultimate stage. Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes left the service park but returned soon after, ending their title hopes.

Clearly gutted by the outcome, Taylor conceded that the team did everything possible to fight for the Championship but it wasn’t to be.

“We tried to run today, we knew it was going to be a small chance that it would work but we tried everything,” Taylor said.

“It’s not the first time we have been bitterly disappointed and it probably won’t be the last. For us we look back on the whole year as a team and we did our absolute best on every rally. We can hold our heads high.

“In the end what happened was something that we couldn’t control. It makes us hungrier for next year, we want this more than anything.”

New South Welshman Tom Clarke and co-driver Ryan Preston came through to secure a stellar second outright. Clarke however found the wet and slippery conditions this morning extremely challenging.

“We really had to back off, we weren’t getting any traction,” Clarke said.

“We had a couple of spins a couple of offs, it was just a bit of a mess.”

Maximum Motorsport’s John O’Dowd finished third outright – the West Australian claimed his first ARC podium, took out the ARC2 4WD title and slipped into third in the ARC driver pointscore.

“First ARC podium, it’s fantastic. It’s a really good end to the year for the team, we couldn’t be happier,” said O’Dowd.

“To take out ARC2 was a bonus, we didn’t expect that but we will take it.”

McMRallySport’s Stephen Mee worked hard to improve the reliability of his Toyota Corolla prior to Rally Australia and his hard work paid off with a win in the ARC2 2WD final.

“It’s pretty hard to believe. We’ve had so many dramas, engines, gearboxes, driveshafts,” Mee said.

“But we’ve sorted that out during the year and its proved to be a good stepping stone. We’ve proved ourselves at one of the hardest events in the country. We are just stoked.”

In the ARC Classic Challenge, it was the Irish pair of Michael O’Hagan and Owen Moynihan taking the win in the Ford Escort Mark II ahead of Brett Stephens and Tony Brandon in the Datsun Bluebird and Andrew Hitch and Kenneth Polly in their Mitsubishi Galant.

Provisional Top 10 Outright – Kennards Hire Rally Australia ARC
1. QUINN/SEARCY 2:58:26.4
2. CLARKE/PRESTON 3:11:40.5 (+13:14.1)
3. O’DOWD/SHEIL 3:18:02.0 (+19:35.6)
4. YOUNG/READ 3:19:31.9 (+21:05.5)
5. BROOKS/GLENNEY 3:20:22.0 (+21:55.6)
6. DUNN/NEAGLE 3:24:32.8 (+26:06.4)
7. MORTON/BENSON 3:36:20.8 (+37:54.4)
8. WEBSTER/PRIEST 3:38:50.4 (+40:24.0)
9. EVANS/WESTON 3:39:28.7 (+41:02.3)
10.BATES/MOSCATT 3:39:54.8 (+41:28.4)

Provisional Top 5 – 2017 CAMS Australian Rally Champion Driver Pointscore
1. Nathan Quinn 331 points
2. Molly Taylor 282 points
3. John O’Dowd 216 points
4. Craig Books 197 points
5. Harry Bates 195 points

Provisional Top 5 – 2017 CAMS Australian Rally Champion Co-Driver Pointscore
1. Bill Hayes 282 points
2. Ben Searcy 246 points
3. Ken Sheil 216 points
4. Steve Glenney 197 points
5. John McCarthy 195 points

Image: Wishart Media