Although Dean Ridge’s return to the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) has been mostly for fun, the New South Welshman is certainly enjoying the ride.
Before this year’s Netier National Capital Rally, Ridge last competed in the ARC more than 15 years ago, spending most of his time running local and state events.
A return to the ARC was never really on the cards until a lack of opportunities at the start of the year, and the Netier National Capital Rally taking place at the right time allowed the 48-year-old to enter.
Initially Ridge entered just for fun and drove his son, Drew’s Ford Fiesta R2 because he could.
After 15 years, he would have been forgiven for taking some time to get used to the standard of national competition, except he didn’t need it as he finished 11th outright and second in the Shamrock Haulage ARC 2WD Cup.
He had less success at the Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland, but still finished both heats inside the top 20 and kept second spot in the 2WD standings.
Trailing young gun Ryan Williams by just six points after two rounds, Ridge admits that potential silverware would be nice but doesn’t change the motivation behind his season.
“We’ve certainly had a good start to the season and I am looking forward to chasing down the younger guys in front of me, if we can get some more rallies in,” Ridge said.
“Honestly, we only went to Canberra because there wasn’t much rallying going on at the time and we thought we’d see how we go. We went well so we pushed on to Gympie – which was a terrific event.
“We thought it would be a bit of fun and it has been. I’m not sure if the title is there – I would love to win it but the little car we have isn’t as quick as a turbo Fiesta, so our focus is just to get it to the end.
“If we push hard and put that pressure, we will see, but I have had enough experience in my time to know how hard I need to drive – I just have to finish and then we’ll see.”
Ridge’s taste for the ARC has inspired him to want more.
He will continue to run the Fiesta this year, with his son returning to the striking yellow Fiesta R2 – while the elder Ridge switches to the more powerful Mitsubishi Evo 4WD.
“Drew has been doing more tarmac racing and I am trying to get him in the sport more,” Ridge added.
“Hopefully next year, he will be able to compete in the 2WD Cup in the Fiesta – which is a very fun car to drive.
“For me, I’ll switch to the Evo as it’s faster and although we don’t expect to win titles in it, we’re still competitive and will give it our best.”
Photos: Peter Norton