Daniel Gonzalez and Daymon Nicoli have claimed consecutive Dunlop Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship (WARC) victories after winning the state-component of the Make Smoking History Forest Rally.
The duo were the standout performers across the 17-stage event as they led the strong field of more than 50 crews for most of the three-day event and won both Heats.
Finishing both Heats in second place were Peter Rullo and James Marquet, the pair putting their Hyundai i20 R2 in second overall ahead of Craig Rando and Scott Beckwith, who enjoyed a strong run with third for the weekend.
Despite empathic victories in both Heats, Gonzalez had a sluggish start to the rally, as Alex Rullo and Steve Glenney dominated the early parts of the weekend.
Behind the wheel of the second Rullo Motorsport Hyundai i20, Alex and Glenney were too good during the Bunbury Speedway Super Special Stages, going toe-to-toe with Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship stars Harry Bates and Coral Taylor.
Wrapping up with an outright ARC stage win on the Friday night, Alex continued his momentum on Saturday morning with two stage wins, while Gonzalez struggled and fell to fourth place.
Gonzalez finally managed to kick into gear with his first stage win on SS7, but still trailed Alex by 40 seconds, which had been the biggest lead of the rally thus far.
On SS8, the tables were turned as Gonzalez enjoyed a 20 second stage win over Peter, and a 50 second wins over Alex, which elevated him to the overall lead.
From then on, Gonzalez didn’t skip a beat, as he won both Heats by more than a minute.
“It was a really good result. Sunday was the perfect rally day for us. We were comfortable, the car felt good and there was plenty of chemistry between Daymon and I,” Gonzalez said.
“We made progress through the day; we weren’t taking any risks and we had a nice solid pace.
“There was an issue on the first two stages on Saturday for us. The feeling just wasn’t there, and we didn’t seem in the right mindset. It just felt wrong.
“That is something we will work on now, we now understand what went wrong in those first stages. And I need to make sure that doesn’t happen for us.
“But then everything clicked for SS7, and we were back where we needed to be. It was a real confidence booster.
“I got into the right mindset after having a firm chat with our people, who noticed straight away that something was not right, so it was good to have the love and support around us and it had an immediate effect.
“It’s been a great start to the WA season with two wins, and now it is just making sure that we put together two good days at future events because that is what is going to keep us progressing.”
Finishing the weekend in fourth place overall was Dylan King and Lee Tierney, while John O’ Dowd’s return to the action saw him place fifth.
Taking out the WARC 2WD Cup was Alexander White and Lisa Read White, after winning both heats in convincing fashion.
Their Heat 1 win was 30 seconds over David Thomas and Mandy Lister, while the second heat win was more than four minutes over Tony Oates and Adam Branford.
In the Clubman Cup, it was Jack Ryan and Luke Dunkley who beat Bruce Lake and Peter Hall by 55 seconds, while Graeme Miles and Liam Turton were the only finishers in the Clubman Masters,
Round three of the Dunlop Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship continues with the Grimwade Stages in Kirup on 1 July.