Eddie Maguire has made a dream return to the Tasmanian gravel rally scene with victory in the 2020 Motorsport Australia Tasmanian Rally Championship’s opening round at the Rocky Cape.
With an impressive entry list of 18 crews taking part in the North West Car Club organised CJR Enterprises Hellyer Sprint Rally, it was the 2017 state champion who eventually came away with victory after winning seven of the eight stages.
Driving alongside Zak Brakey in a Mitsubishi Evo 9, the duo didn’t have the best of the starts, with Maguire hitting a tree on the opening stage and losing 35 valuable seconds.
However Maguire bounced back perfectly and took out the remaining seven stages to record a two minute victory over three time Tasmanian champions Jamie and Charlotte Vandenberg, while Nick Grave and Ryan Sheehan rounded out the podium a further 45 seconds behind.
Helping Maguire to his well-deserved victory was the fact that many of the other crews were battling it out for minor podium honours and taking points off each other in the process, which allowed the eventual winners to build the healthy gap, despite starting an average start.
With Heat one runner-up Bodie Reading out after five stages, two-time state champion Craig Brooks missing stage four and Maguire’s brother Stephen having a difficult run after winning the opening stage, Maguire believed his fortunes left him in a good position for the rest of the season.
“The win sets us up nicely. Winning both heats and having two different competitors picking up runner-up in either heat puts us well and truly up there for championship contention,” Maguire said.
“I think we all had cobwebs, but some just had more than others. It was a really tough field and I think we were a bit lucky with the DNFs to the likes of Bodie Reading and my brother Stephen.
“It felt really good to be out there again, especially since it’s been almost three years since I last competed. It was also great to see everyone again and I was really impressed with the number of spectators we had in the bush compared to last time I was running.
“All in all, it was a great event so well done to the North West Car Club for not just successfully running its first pace noted event, but for all the organisation they did to make sure the event was within COVID-19 requirements. They did a great job running it.”
Other notable results saw RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship competitor Marcus Walkem and co-driver Damien Grimwood guide their Subaru WRX to fifth place behind Mitsubishi Evo 5 pilots Byron Murfet and Callan Randall.
Just behind Walkem was 2015 champion Keith Abblitt and Nicole Bryan, while Tim Auty had a less than ideal start to his title defence with the reigning Tasmanian champion finishing eighth alongside co-driver Sarah Woodier.
As for Brooks, he finished his grand return to the driver’s seat in 14th outright after a disappointing first stage, where he ended up off the course and his missed fourth stage all but ended his hopes of a fairy-tale return.
Both Reading and Stephen failed to finish the event after their problems.
The Dunlop Motorsport Australia Tasmanian Rally Championship returns next month with the 2020 Les Walkden Enterprises Mountain Stages Rally on 3 October.