Coffs Coast Rally Team’s Nathan Quinn leads the CAMS Australian Rally Championship after two rounds following his second place at today’s Make Smoking History Forest Rally.
Paired with his second place at the Eureka Rally, Quinn is six points ahead of Subaru do Motorsport’s Molly Taylor and a further 12 points ahead of Toyota Genuine Parts’ Harry Bates in the championship standings.
Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes claimed the round win at this weekend’s Forest Rally with a clean sweep of both heats.
Taylor was challenged early by Tankformers’ Eli Evans, until the Peugeot 208 Maxi rolled on special stage 14, and then by Bates until he and co-driver John McCarthy suffered mechanical issues on special stage 17.
Taylor said: “Les Walkden Rallying prepared the car perfectly for this weekend and both Bill and I feel we found a new level, so of course we’re delighted by this result.
“We’ve combined car reliability with our own ability to achieve the perfect result. It’s been a fantastic competition with Harry, Eli and Nathan and to come out on top after such a close fight feels great.
“This gives us renewed confidence going into round three in Canberra, so look out for some incredible action there!”
It was a steady drive by Quinn and co-driver Ben Searcy that saw them overcome varied mechanical issues to move into second position late in the day, winning the last two stages of the rally.
“It was a pretty bad weekend to be brutally honest but the result worked out really well for us. It’s a real shame what happened to Harry and Eli. We definitely weren’t fast enough this weekend but had you have asked me after the super special stage on Friday night, I wouldn’t have told you we would be anywhere close to the podium, so its good we got through.”
Quinn continued: “The only thing the championship lead means to me is it’s pretty cool to have my name at the top but the championship is just like the rally and you saw what happened this weekend. It can take just a single rally for everything to turn pear-shaped. But I’ll be looking up the rally.com.au site!”
West Australia’s Brad Markovic and co-driver Toni Feaver produced a strong drive to finish third outright on home-soil.
“We were pretty happy with our pace yesterday and no real issues which was great. We struggled a little with a gearbox issue yesterday and dropped a little bit of time,” Markovic said.
“This morning started fine, went to our favourite stage, Healthway loop, got a puncture in the right hand front about four k’s in so we dropped about a minute there. But its a great result for the team, especially 12 months ago with what we were dealing with to be where we finished today. Very happy.”
Bates’ claimed two stage wins this morning but the Toyota Corolla S2000 came to a halt on the second pass of the Healthway loop.
“We had a picture in the second stage and another puncture a few stages later so it was already looking like an average day,” explained Bates.
“We then then went into Healthway loop with the aim of winning all three stages this afternoon, just a little goal to see if we could get the bonus point for stage wins, and we lost all power.
We are not sure what the problem is yet. It’s disappointing, the guys did a great job preparing the car and it felt great all weekend. But it happens, that’s the way it goes. We will have a lot of work to do to catch up to the championship lead again come round three.”
It was the fast and slippery Nannup roads put an end to Evans’ event; Evans was leading heat two at the time, having won the first two stages of the day.
“On a fast uphill section that is really rocky, I felt like I’d jagged a rock on the front right,” explained Evans.
“As we were going up this fast section I was trying to feel if we had a flat tyre. Everything felt good so I pressed on to the top of the hill where there is a bit of a crest and a short left hander over the crest and a bit of a tricky corner.
“The car didn’t turn in as much as I liked and we ran a bit wide, nudged a bank which brought the front straight and we hit a concrete water tank of all things; it sent the car sideways through the air and it rolled three times and we landed. So that’s the end of our rally.”
Australian Truck Performance’s Tony Sullens and co-driver Kaylie Newell finished the event in fifth position, taking a stage win along the way. Maximum Motorsport’s John O’Dowd and co-driver Kenneth Sheil came in sixth with Kosciuszko Automotive Rally Team’s Andrew and Kirra Penny in seventh.
Both Evans and Bates were able to repair their cars enough to rejoin the event at the final control to bag valuable championship points.
The CAMS ARC moves onto the Canberra next, with the National Capital Rally, a round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, on 26-28 May.