Guy Tyler and Steve Fisher have christened their newly acquired Mitsubishi Evo 5 in the best possible way, winning their first outing in the car by taking out overall honors at the 2015 asp Southern Rally, round one of the South Australian Rally Championship.
Held on a unique mix of fast forestry roads punctuated by tight technical sections in the Second Valley Forest, deep within South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, the event has been a long time coming. It was slated to be the final round of the 2014 championship, however the unexpected declaration of a total fire ban day saw the event shelved on the eve of the rally. Like dettol on a wound, the real sting came when the expected hot and windy weather never eventuated.
It wasn’t completely shelved – it was just cryogenically frozen, ready to be thawed out when the time came. That time was May 2015, and the Saturday recce day brought howling winds and rain and mud. On multiple occasions the chilling conditions were placated with comments about how at least a last minute fire ban would be pretty unlikely.
The final step of the podium was claimed by the hard-charging Datsun 180B SSS of the Jones Brothers, Peter and Bryan. As always, they drove the wheels off the 180B all day to put up a serious fight to the 4WD’s in the grippy conditions.
Strategically it was an interesting rally as many of the usual top players were unable to enter. James Rodda was hoping to have his freshly rebuilt Evo 9 ready in time but missed the deadline by a small margin; he was just one of a few in a similar situation.
The rally took a heavy toll on cars as all of the entered competitors fought hard for the available championship points. The flying Galant VR4 of Garry Brown and Mike Dale didn’t even complete the first stage before mechanical problems had them sidelined and out of the race. In the end this was the only photo I managed to take of the car.
Henry Nott and co-driver Georgie Denzer were seeded as car 1 and set the pace early on. They were visibly quicker than anyone else when we saw them on SS1, but as we were rushing to SS2 we saw the bright orange Evo loaded up onto the trailer and heading back to service park.
They ran strongly all day until the gearbox became stuck in third gear right at the start of the final stage, which unfortunately for them was the longest of the event. The Simon’s managed to get through the 20km stage in just third gear, but a lack of pace meant they slipped down to fourth place overall.
The front left brake hose was taken out by a rock or bump, and they didn’t realise until they hit the brakes into the triple caution. They overshot into the bushes and luckily didn’t get stuck and escaped without damaging the Escort. They fixed the brake line and got back out for the afternoon, but they had dropped three stages and were out of contention.
Daniel Ludlow and Leigh Stokes overshot the same corner throwing their Gemini off into the ferns. Luckily there were plenty of people on-hand to push them out, and with much wheel-spinning and tyre smoking on the hard road base the Gemini was out and continued on. Lucky escape!
Like every rally, the Southern Rally started with a walk around service park checking the cars out for the first time. You’ve normally just stepped out of your own car from the drive down so you’re still warm but it is icy in the shadows; bonus points this time though as there was a coffee van ready and serving. It was an unexpected pleasure to see the Liberty RS of Paul Knopka entered in the Intro class. This Legacy used to belong to my friend David and I co-drove my first ever gravel rally in this car – memories.
One of the things I love most about rally is the different and varied locations and driving around to each of the stages is one of the highlights of shooting these events. I don’t use my old WRX as daily transport anymore and it hadn’t moved for over a month, so it was great fun to bring it out for a drive. From swinging through the fast bends on the main road from Second Valley through to Delamere, scooting around the gravel roads and then a rather memorable sunset drive from Delamere across to Victor Harbor after the event it was a highlight of the weekend. Fellow photographers Mark Williams and Stuey Daddow jumped in with me for the day – it’s much easier to enjoy the driving when you don’t have to read a map at the same time.
Obviously competing would be better, but if you can’t do that then I really struggle to think of a better way to spend a day than chasing a gravel rally through an unknown forest. Photography gives you time to take in little random observations, and here are three of mine from the Southern Rally.
Freshly built old rally cars are cool, too. In fact, a decent part of the Southern Rally was made up of classic rally cars. Yes, the cars shown in this post probably do highlight my own personal bias towards old cars, but I’d say at least half the field were classics. That’s cool.
And third; ‘shrooms. If we had just put all of the mushrooms we found while traipsing through the forest into a bag, we probably could have sold them back in Adelaide for more money than anyone would make selling photos of rally cars.
‘Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine’. Not quite, but we still thought it was pretty coincidental that Henry and Georgie chose that exact splash to stop and top up the radiator on the Evo. Seems the radiator cap was somehow lost, and they were doing all it took to nurse the Evo to the finish line in an attempt to claim even a few championship points. With so many of the usual contenders not competing and only three rounds in this years championship, every point counts.
Henry had tipped all of his remaining water into the Evo so decided to fill up his container from the creek, just in case it was needed. He made it through the rest of the special stage with no problems but filled up the Evo again with creek water for the final transport back to the finish.
But at the end of the day it was Guy and Steve who came home with the win, and the best possible start to their 2015 Championship campaign. Guy has had just about the worst luck over the past few years – we’ve all lost count of the number of gearboxes, clutches, lost wheels, heavy jump landings and random mechanical failures that have plagued his rallying, so it was fantastic to witness a trouble free run.
Words and photos by Andrew Coles