The second day started with promise for Make Smoking History Forest Rally competitors with quick times set on the first couple of stages, but the competitor’s focus changed to preservation when the heavens opened mid-morning.
Before the downpour, spectators turned out at the designated viewing points to watch the 45 teams expertly navigate their way on the first two stages of challenging Nannup forestry roads. However, unrelenting heavy rain saw two of the planned stages, SS9 Dugite 2 and SS10 Snake 2, cancelled from the day’s program due to safety concerns.
With their final two stages cancelled, Clubman competitors finished their event early.
The final two stages of the day for WA Rally Championship and 2WD Championship proceeded ahead as planned, but with a day of rallying still left to go for these categories, it was no time for bold strategies.
WA Rally Championship
John O’Dowd and Toni Feaver made the most of the early morning’s clear skies, winning the first three stages in the Skoda Fabia R5 before the wet roads saw them employ a more cautious approach.
“We got the first four stages over with, and then the next two were cancelled,” said O’Dowd.
“To be honest, the last two were diabolical – but that was the same for everyone.
“We had a good margin up our sleeve from this morning’s effort, so we backed off on those two stages and still managed to come home with a win, which is good. Our strategy worked!”
O’Dowd and Feaver finished the day as the outright leaders.
Ben Searcy and Daymon Nicoli performed a stellar comeback in the Mitsubishi Evo 9. The duo charged up the timesheets – going from finishing Friday’s stages in 24th after a mechanical issue, to finishing today in second outright, just 24.5 seconds behind the leaders.
Craig Rando and Stephen Wade finished third outright in the Subaru WRX STI, but are still very much in the hunt tomorrow with only a 38-second gap to the leaders.
WA 2WD Championship
Despite a couple of mechanical gremlins to contend with and an off-track excursion on the final stage, Glenn Alcorn and Jonathan Charlesson finished the day leading the 2WD Championship. Their team will be working hard overnight on the Ford Escort RS to repair a broken diff.
Mark Travers and Jeremy Edwards started the day in ninth place in the Toyota AE86 Sprinter. They successfully narrowed their gap to the leaders finishing the day in second just 1.22mins away from Alcorn and Charlesson.
Current third-place occupiers Mike Joss and Megan Logue’s day closed on a low point when they had an event ending off in their Nissan Silvia S15 on the Ellis stage. Their misfortune will bump Alex and Lisa White into third place in the Nissan Silvia S13. The Whites currently have a gap of 2.09 mins to Alcorn and Charlesson.
Clubman Cup and Masters
Rain and two cancelled stages didn’t dampen the spirits of the Clubman Cup and Masters competitors today. There was plenty to celebrate in the service park with an impressive milestone and a rookie win.
Andy Van Kann’s love of rallying has outlasted many romances. Today marked exactly 50 years since Van Kann’s first rally, and with a win in the Clubman Masters category, the milestone was celebrated as planned.
Usually behind the wheel, Van Kann co-drove this event, entrusting his Toyota Corolla TE27 to Nannup local Tom Wilde. Wilde said the weather didn’t hold the team back.
“We were expecting the weather, and to be honest, it suited me fine,” said Wilde.
“For me, this is the first round of the Forest Rally I’ve experienced on roadbook as a driver. So that was a bit different. There were so many sections that I knew were super-fast, but you just can’t commit without your pace notes there as reassurance. I still had a ball!”
Carl Rattenbury and Ashley Burton had a good weekend in the Ford Escort Mk1. Their consistency secured them second place on the podium with a 3.09 minute gap to the leaders.
In their wild Datsun Mazda hybrid, John Ludham and Murray Hynes clinched third, 3.47 minutes behind Wilde and Van Kann. Ludham said the car was a handful to drive in the wet.
“It’s a bit like a two-stroke – it comes on the power quite strong!” said Ludham. “So, I was a bit nervous in the wet and decided that preservation was the key today. We backed off just a bit to make sure that we got through to the end.
“The competition with Tom and Andy was great – it was a good rivalry.
“I had Murray Hynes as my co-driver, and he is great with calling notes and is just a joy to have in the car.”
Rookie team Michael Connor and Eden Hughes driving the Hyundai Excel took out top honours in the Clubman Cup. The team had close battles in the timesheets with Glenn Cawood and Murish O’Connor all event. In the end Connor and Hughes pipped Cawood and Murish in the Mitsubishi Lancer by 18.7 seconds.
Connor said the result was far better than he expected, especially because it was only his third rally.
“I thought a Top 5 would be a great finish,” said Connor. “But to get on top of the podium is amazing.
“I only started rallying last year. I used to do Khanacross and service crew for rally teams running at the top of the field. It’s been a natural progression through grassroots level motorsport.
“About four years ago, I decided to build a car and do it (rallying) for a year.
“The Excel is a neat, affordable car. It’s not overly endowed with power, but you put a few of the right bits on them, and they are a lot of fun. It’s relatively cheap motorsport compared to some of the faster machinery out there, and I’m pretty happy with that.
“I actually enjoyed the wet stages. There were a few moments where we were going along the road and the car was spinning up in gear, aquaplaning and bouncing across the ruts, but it never felt too far out of control.”
Fellow rookie Tiana Chapman and co-driver Graham Mogg crossed the finish line 1.48 minutes later in the Subaru Impreza, which was enough to clinch them third.
Tomorrow the WA Rally Championship and WA 2WD Championship competitors are back in the forest for five more stages before they cross the finish line. The final stage will be another new addition to the Make Smoking History Forest Rally programme – the Nannup Power Stage.
The Nannup Power Stage will see all competitors completing the fast 3.5km loop style stage, with the Top 10 competitors running in reverse order, from 10th to first for a nail-biting finish to the event.
Podium presentations will then happen at approximately 3.15pm at the Nannup Sport and Recreation Centre.
The Forest Rally is sponsored by Healthway and the Make Smoking History message, Tourism WA, Shannons and the Shire of Nannup.
For further information on the Make Smoking History Forest Rally, please visit forestrally.com.au.