Following a successful Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) debut in the 2022 Make Smoking History Forest Rally, Gary Mills is hoping to take a step further in this year’s event.
And the West Australian based Irishman has acquired a new set of wheels which he believes will help him be competitive against some of the young stars of the national championship.
Striking a deal with esteemed rally outfit Race Torque Engineering, Mills will contest the round in a Peugeot 308 AP4 – the same 4WD car that has been previously steered by the likes of former ARC star, Adrian Coppin.
Mills will enter the event with plenty of confidence after first crack at the ARC last year saw him secure the overall victory in the ARC 2WD Cup – beating Tasmanian regular Aidan Peterson and Victorian Jason Lennane.
Although he was quite far off the outright pace from the outright crews, the result instilled the confidence he could improve significantly should he upgrade to a 4WD.
Now running the proven 4WD AP4, Mills was looking forward to seeing his progress against the regular ARC crews in AP4s.
“We are very excited and can’t wait to go up against the top drivers in the country,” Mills said.
“It was great to get the result we got last year – especially we are able to see how our pace matches up against these national crews.
“That inspired the decision to go to an AP4 a little bit, but the main motivation was that it’s a bucket list for me to drive a good 4WD car as I have never driven one before.
“I figured if I am going to try one, then I want to get a good one that has similar characteristics to what I was already driving and that is what we get from the Peugeot – especially one with the history that this particular model has.
“It will be good to see how we go against the likes of Jamie (Luff) and James (Dimmock) – both of whom have upgraded to an AP4 for this year, and I think they will be a great test.”
While Mills will achieve a dream of his by running in an AP4 car, the challenge for now will be trying to squeeze in some test days before the event.
The deal with Race Torque Engineering will see Mills contest most of the Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship in the Peugeot, which included the weekend’s WARC event just gone.
Mills had a mixed run in at the Bakers Hill WA round, which included a collection of top six stage times before a premature exit due to a busted front diff.
Despite the setback, Mills still had the confidence of competing in the Forest Rally and setting some realistic goals.
“We’re not sure where we will be as I have never driven left hand drive before,” Mills added.
“We did run it at Bakers Hill but didn’t get enough time in the car – in fact we only really have had a total of 40 kilometres in the car.
“Honestly, I don’t think I have the capabilities or budget to match the top end crews like the Bates or Quinn, but if we can be there towards the top five in a few stages I will be very happy.
“The number one goal for us is to finish the event and get kilometres in but depending on how we go, it could potentially play a part in what I decide to do next year.
“We don’t have the budget for the ARC right now, so the plan will be to contest the WARC with the Peugeot and see how we go, but I would like to have a proper crack at the ARC one day.”
Entries for the second round of the Bosch Motorsport Australian Rally Championship are still open and crews can enter via the Motorsport Australia Member Portal here.
The 2023 Make Smoking History Forest Rally takes place in Bunbury and Nannup on 19-21 May.
Feature Photo: Unlabelled Photography