After multiple false starts, Marcus Walkem will finally get the chance to compete in the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) again when he lines up at this weekend’s Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland.
It’s been almost two years since the Tasmanian made his last appearance at an ARC event having entered the Asia Pacific Rally Championship leg of the 2019 Rally Tasmania.
As for when he last competed outside his home state in the ARC, you have to go even further. The Make Smoking History Forest Rally in April, 2017 was the last time he competed on the national stage outside of Tasmania.
Unfortunately he didn’t have the best of weekends at the West Australian round that year and retired his Mitsubishi Evo in both heats.
However a lot has changed for Walkem since then. He has children, a new business and he will now be behind the wheel of an exciting new machine, the Hyundai i20 R5.
This weekend will be just the second time Walkem drives his new car after debuting it in Tassie two years ago, an event where he was producing solid times. Still more seat time in the car is required to get him to the next level.
Walkem was scheduled to make his long awaited return to the ARC at the Netier National Capital Rally but had to pull out due to the two-week postponement.
Now, with the car currently in transit to Gympie, Walkem is all but locked in for his grand return but remains modest as to where he will finish up this weekend.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. It will be nice to get out of cold Tassie and spend time in sunny Queensland,” Walkem said.
“This will only be the first time in two years I have driven the car so my aim will be to get some kilometres under my belt and hopefully build some good pace by Sunday.
“The car is mint. Tip top condition. No real reliability problems and it’s been ready for two weeks now. However it’s going to be a tough rally. A lot of it is narrow and 160km is a long way.
“I have to be realistic. We’re not going to be near the pace runners because it’s been a long time between drives, but my plan is to just keep my head down and try and build my pace.
“I guess the new event is a bit of an even playing field. It will be interesting to see how people go on new roads and with pace notes. I think the first heat will be interesting, but you can’t beat time behind the wheel. All of the front runners will still be quick.
“With that said, it’s a bit of an adventure and somewhere I haven’t been before. All the team is pretty pumped and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Walkem and co-driver John Allen will be one of 78 crews in Gympie this weekend with the second round of the ARC to see them tackle 160km over 12 stages.
Fans will be able to attend four of the 12 stages via two spectator points in Broojar, two passes on Saturday and two passes on Sunday.
The 2021 Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland takes place in Gympie on 21-23 May.
Photo: Angryman Photography