Sideways in the dust at the Copyworld Walky 100 Robertstown

Robertstown_2014 (8)Henry Nott and Tania Wearing have stormed to victory in the 30th running of the Copyworld Walky 100 Robertstown Rally, round three of the South Australian Rally Championship. With regular series navigator Kate Catford stepping out of the freshly painted Evo 6 for this event, Nott was able to claim enough points to win the championship with one event still to go.

Robertstown_2014 (11)Trailing just 35 seconds behind after the nine competitive stages was the Evo 9 of multiple state champions’ Matt Selley and Hamish McKendrick, who swapped outright stage wins in an intense battle with Nott/Wearing for most of the event.

Robertstown_2014 (37)Proving that there’s still plenty of life left in the older chassis was the pairing of Brett Baldwin and Steve Fisher, who punted their 1990 Subaru Liberty RS Turbo up into third place outright, 1.33 behind Selley/McKendrick. This Liberty is putting out some serious power, and it was driven with the requisite commitment to achieve such a result in it.

This is what 240km/h on a dirt road looks like from the cockpit of a 24 year old Subaru. Make sure to see the chicane at 2.20 – that’s commitment!

Robertstown_2014 (60)Speaking of commitment, it takes a lot of it to punt a Datsun Stanza into fourth outright, but that’s exactly what Andrew Gleeson and Lisi Phillips managed at Robertstown. It’s a very nicely prepared car but it was still built in 1978, and it is still championing the classic Datsun /Weber carburettors/ Rear wheel drive combination that makes it such a joy to watch. The Datsun just held on to fourth, finishing 2.14 down on the Liberty.

Robertstown_2014 (40)Rounding out fifth place, just 17 seconds behind the Stanza, was the Lancer Evo 5 of Dave McDonough and Lyndon Wilson.

Robertstown_2014 (35)Dust isn’t usually an issue at Robertstown due to its mid June timeslot, but the postponement of the event due to wet weather three months ago meant we were presented with a significantly different rally.

Robbie 2014 (25)The biggest letdown was the cancellation of the Inspiration Point stage, which started on the plains a little way out of Robertstown and then ran up into the range behind the township. This is a photograph from a few months ago when we explored the stages, and I had been looking forward to shooting proper rally cars at this point since then. But as we all know, local councils have the unending capacity to stun and extended roadworks were commenced the day before the rally, meaning the stage couldn’t be run. I guess it made sense to somebody to do it that way. Not me.

Robertstown_2014 (19)Some of these roads were so muddy that they were barely navigable last time we were here, but it has hardly rained since then and everything has dried out thoroughly.

Robertstown_2014 (33)It was a bit nerdy of me to get excited about it, but we come to the Robertstown area every year and I’ve never seen the salt bush in bloom here before. Spring was definitely in the air.

Robertstown_2014 (52)Almost everywhere was bone dry, but the wet winter’s legacy lingered in a few spots. In my four or five years of coming to Robertstown I’ve never seen the wetlands on the outskirts of town properly wet before. I’m told it’s a relatively rare occurrence, especially in September. There were thousands of birds frolicking in the water at sunset and we were seriously tempted to join them after enduring a full day of dusty rallying.

Robertstown_2014 (34)The dust imbedded itself absolutely everywhere… everywhere. We were wearing sunscreen to protect us from the sun and we were sweating buckets as we worked the corners. The sweat/sunscreen combo acted as a perfect glue and the powdery muck formed a paste that seeped into every orifice. But hey, at least I managed some free advertising.

Robertstown_2014 (32)There were times out there on the prairie lands that it was really easy to loose track of exactly where we were.

Robertstown_2014 (29)I’ve never been to the Safari Rally, and have never even been to Africa, but I imagine this is just a small taste of what it’s like. All you need is a giraffe up there on the horizon and this could have been Kenya.

Robertstown_2014 (6)The giraffes and hippos may have been absent, but there was still no shortage of dangerous looking animals around the place…

Robertstown_2014 (5)… so we naturally stopped to take photos of them. Mark was bummed that he didn’t have time to set up his macro rings for this shot. I was comfortable just using my zoom and keeping my distance.

Robertstown_2014 (47)Robertstown is legendary for being hard on cars, and 2014 was no exception. The roads typically fall into one of two groups – stupidly fast, or stupidly rough. Both of these have the potential to cause drama. One way around the problem is to take a page out of Shaun Holden’s book and rally an EB Falcon (that thing is an indestructible, sliding, sideways tank), but as much fun as it looks it isn’t always an option.

Robertstown_2014 (1)A lot of the rally was comprised of fast, open sections of road that have lots of loose marbles on top but bucket loads of grip if you can sweep through that.

Robertstown_2014 (2)A lot of the guys had brand new rubber for the event, and every little detail was crucial for making the most of it.

Robertstown_2014 (27)Unquestionably the biggest hard luck story was the untimely crash of James Rodda and David Langfield, in Rodda’s brand new Evo 9. After punting his old GC8 WRX around for many years and winning a state championship without a scratch, Rodda finally shelled out and upgraded to something a little more serious.

Robertstown_2014 (3)This Evo 9 was built by Racetorque (the same people who prepare the MRF Skoda Fabia S2000’s in APRC), and did a few seasons of the Asia Pacific Championship with one of the Pedder brothers before spending a few uncompetitive years in the WA state series. James purchased it in a state of semi-neglect and had Racetorque recommission it, making it absolutely on point once again.

Robertstown_2014 (4)James and Dave ran it as a course car at Rally SA a few weeks ago, and this was the first competitive event for it. Within a few hundred metres they were instantly on the pace, and were comfortably fighting for the outright lead with Henry Nott and Matt Selley.

Robertstown_2014 (9)Then on SS8, disaster struck. James reported tipping it into a corner on a narrow, bumpy track and hearing an ominous ‘click’ sound. The pair lost steering, hit a stump and rolled onto the roof, blocking the road. The stump ripped a corner off the car, and the roll damaged a lot of the panel work. It’s certainly fixable and James has already began the long rebuild process, but it’s not the start the Rally Power team were hoping for.

Robertstown_2014 (15)Michael Busby and John Caldicott had a strong start to the event and even set a couple of third and fourth fastest stage times, however untraceable fuel pressure issues struck the highly strung 13B halfway through the event. They probably could have limped to the finish, but with a fresh engine build before Rally SA the tough decision was made to protect the motor and retire. Fun was still had though, with Busby talking wide-eyed about sitting on close to 200km/h through the bumpy goat track sections of some of the stages.

Robertstown_2014 (17)Ignition issues struck down the RenaultSport Clio of GT and Damo, which is a shame given the good run they were also having in the first half of the event.

Robertstown_2014 (21)And then there’s just old fashioned bad luck. Vaughan Bell and Dainus Skabe were reliving those seventies dreams in their mint Datsun 1600…

Robertstown_2014 (23)… until they hit some big ruts on the wrong angle and tore a driveshaft out.

Robertstown_2014 (22)Mark and I followed the sweep vehicle into the stage at the end, and we came across the stricken 1600 in the middle of nowhere. But in true rally fashion they hadn’t given up – they were rigging the rear end back together so they could keep going. They limped back to service, fixed it properly and managed to rejoin.

Robertstown_2014 (50)Despite our best plans there were no rally cars to shoot during the spectacular golden hour at sunset. I had to make use of the light somehow, so Mark’s Rav4 just had to do on the way back to evening service.

Robertstown_2014 (53)There was a good mood in the air at service. After such a challenging event, you had really achieved something if you got to turn your lights on.

Robertstown_2014 (55)Henry and Tania were relaxed as they waited at the time control to head out into the final stages of the event.

Robertstown_2014 (54)While Tania posed…

Robertstown_2014 (56)… Henry was just willing the old girl along to make the final stages with no issues. After all, the championship hung on it.

Robertstown_2014 (57)Our hearts sank when they drove off, leaving a trail of oil behind. I really thought they wouldn’t make the finish, after coming so close.

Robertstown_2014 (25)But the Evo held together, and the rest is history. Well done Henry and Tania!

Robertstown_2014 (13)The South Australian Rally Championship moves on to the fourth and final round – The Second Valley Rally, on 26 October. This is a new event run by Southern Districts Car Club, and is set to be a highlight of the series.

Robertstown_2014 (28)Words and photos by Andrew Coles

Robertstown_2014 (31)Full results, including a detailed breakdown of individual stage times, can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Dan October 11, 2014 Reply

    Wow, that video. I don't think I saw the car go completely straight once, even on the long straights!

    Excellent photos, by the way. Really makes me feel like I was there. I think I'm going to have to visit one of these events.

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