State News: VRC set for manufacturer showdown

The Focus on Furniture Victorian Rally Championship (VRC) is ripe for a shakeup with the Subaru WRXs’ domination in recent years to be challenged with the defending champions making the switch to arch-rival Mitsubishi for the 2018 season.

2017 Champions Glen Raymond and co-driver Kate Catford will debut their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 at The Courier Eureka Rally while also competing for points in the Australian Rally Championship.

Ironically, this very car beat Raymond for the Australian title in 2009 at the hands of multiple Australian Rally Champion, Simon Evans.

The Mitsubishi of Raymond and Catford will be backed up with the mercurial pairing of former champions, Warren Lee and David Lethlean, in a similar Mitsubishi Lancer. The pair will be pushing Raymond and Catford and keeping a number of Subarus at bay.

Ben and Cathy Hayes will likely be the fastest of the Subaru WRX crews, with a car formerly driven by Ballarat local Darren Windus. It will have plenty of power that will suit Saturday’s stages in particular.

Matt Lee and Annie Dougherty will be very fast and hoping to overcome the reliability problems that plagued their 2017 season.

Other Subaru crews to watch will be young guns Luca Giacomin and Ryan Clinnick. Giacomin is returning to the VRC after putting his Subaru off the road in this rally last year. He is fast but will likely be cautious in the early stages.

Clinnick could be the dark horse in the field. While relatively new to the pace of a front-running car, he showed excellent form late last season.

The 2017 South Australian Champion Aaron Bowering in a Subaru WRX STi is no stranger to these Victorian roads and will also challenge from the get go.

If the sheer speed of the front-running, turbo-charged, all-wheel-drive rockets is not enough to get you out to a spectator point, then the sweet engine sounds of Grant Walker’s Ford Escort might just do it. Walker is the current two-wheel-drive Victorian champion and he is back to defend his title with co-driver, and Ballarat local, Steph Richards.

Their main rivals will be Bendigo’s Brian Semmens in a Nissan Silvia and Darren Snooks with Simon Evans in a classic Datsun Stanza.

If it’s sideways full-throttle V8-action you need, then look for the blue VK Holden of Braeden Kendrick and Ari Patterson in the lower half of the field. You won’t be disappointed.

For years, the VRC has featured a low-cost development category in the form of the rugged and reliable Hyundai Excel and no less than eight are entered at the Eureka Rally.

Heading that field will be Matt Raymond, a former Victorian champion himself. He will be kept honest by Joel Perkins and Tom Brennan, now in their third year of the series. Also look out for the Ballarat locals, Sean Payne and Kate Meyer, in their Excel with a new and radical paint scheme – you can’t miss them.