With the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) season finale closing in, many of the crews have been finding ways to get some last-minute kilometres ahead of Kosciuszko Automotive Monaro Sprint Rally.
For Nathan Quinn, Troy Dowel and Adrian Stratford, the trio of drivers used their final weekend before the ARC final round to compete in the Till Hino Motorsport Australia Victorian Rally Championship’s (VRC) Gippsland Rally.
With 59 crews taking part in the eight-stage event, each driver went into pace noted rally with different goals, however from a results standpoint, only one was able to have true joy – Stratford.
Just like the ARC, Stratford and co-driver Kain Manning were in the running for the 2WD Championship title and they successfully won it after finishing the 124 competitive kilometre event on the outright podium behind ARC veteran Darren Windus and JJ Hatton.
For Stratford, it was the perfect lead up for this weekend’s Shamrock Haulage 2WD ARC Cup battle where they have quite the task ahead of them to snatch the title from current leader Ryan Williams and the second placed Dean Ridge.
“Gippsland was a really good weekend. We had our fair share of drama, but to come away with an outright podium and the 2WD title was awesome,” Stratford said.
“It definitely gave us confidence, considering the speed we had and the issues we overcome. We’re excited to see what we can do on the weekend – especially since these stages in Monaro will suit us more.
“It also helped blow off the cobwebs. We haven’t done any pace notes since Canberra and we’re very rusty, so this event gave us the opportunity to get the hang of it.
“We changed our notes like crazy, so from a recce point of view, it was a very important event to do. From a driver point of view, it only took us a couple of kilometres to get normal again.”
Dowel on the other hand didn’t have as much success as his fellow Victorian, with the 21-year-old technically not finishing after retiring on the seventh stage.
It was a mixed day for the youngster and co-driver Bernie Webb as their best stage result was only as high as P8, however for Dowel, he was only using the event for more pace notes experience.
“As I have been running smoothline notes for most of this year, we have been working on getting my own pace notes right, which made the Gippsland Rally purely about improving in that area,” Dowel explained.
“As we were focused on Monaro, I couldn’t really push the car and as it was a very technical event, our main focus was getting used to pace notes and using it as a high-speed recce – I didn’t care about the results.
“We’re definitely excited for this weekend. The roads should be a lot easier to write pace notes on and we’re aiming for very little mistakes. Should be a good weekend.
“With that said, we don’t know too much about it, I have only seen the stage videos, but they look fast there and we will see them later this week.”
As for the more experienced campaigner in Quinn, he was in contention for the outright victory in Gippsland and even led at the start of the first heat, before falling narrowly short to 2018 ARC Champion Eli Evans.
It only got worse for him as he ended up retiring midway through the second heat, but the New South Welshman remained optimistic about his chances in the ARC.
“We have been having a rough run with that car because it keeps on giving up, so for us to produce the performance that we did, we’re over the moon,” Quinn said.
“It was a nice little weekend. Great competition, really good roads and it just ran smoothly. It was quite nice to do something different.
“I think based on how we went for most of the event, I would say that the goal for Monaro will be to win the event. If we can piece everything together, we should be challenging.
“We’re 100 per cent looking forward to this weekend. Rally Gippsland gave us confidence because it’s a tricky rally, so I think with easier roads for Monaro and Ray (Winwood-Smith) having that bit more time with pace notes, we are looking stronger than before.”
The Kosciuszko Automotive Monaro Sprint Rally takes place in Bombala on Saturday 11 December.
Photo; Bruce Keys.