Gary Brown and Mike Dale have stormed to a close victory in the inaugural Rallye Wattle Range, the first round of the South Australian Rally Championship held on Sunday in the Wattle Range area of the South East.
Barry and Helen Lowe drove the wheels off the thundering VB Commodore to win class P4 and finish a credible 6th outright. The big V8 sounded fantastic on the special stage, and could consistently be counted on to throw up the biggest, wildest rooster tails of dust and rocks everywhere it went.
… until a very minor mistake saw Day clip a fence post on a narrow grassy section of road on SS8 which caused the Subaru to roll twice. Both Day and Orme were unhurt, and I already hear a replacement shell is on the way. Fingers crossed they get the car running again for the Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rally in little over a month.
Busby was a little frustrated with the result as the RX7 had dump pipe issues and a boost leak that caused a loss of power. The pair also suffered heavily in the dust on the nighttime stages – sometimes visibility was down to less than a hundred metres. They are very optimistic about the car’s future potential, however.
Guy Tyler and Damian Reed finished Friday night’s three super special stages as fastest 2WD outright, but unfortunately the full potential of the Clio wasn’t realised due to a broken differential on SS7. This is the second time in two events that the Clio has had a major gearbox failure. The 777 Rallysport team have identified it as the major weakness in the car, and are working toward a different and better solution before the next event.
The actual event itself was something new for the championship and I thought it was a fantastic concept. I’m not going to lie – there were a few serious organisational issues that really need to be resolved, but assuming SEAC can deal with these (which I have no doubt it can), this event will soon become a highlight of the year.
Based in the town of Millicent, the event started on Friday evening with a super special stage around the Millicent showgrounds, run three times. Unfortunately I had to do the mad dash down to the South East after work on Friday evening so missed the super special stages.
The event resumed on Saturday morning with a mini show at the jetty in Beachport. A free bacon and egg breakfast was put on for the competitors and everyone stood around basking in the brilliant early morning sun and shooting the breeze for an hour before competition started. It was actually a really great idea – the morning of a rally is one of the most stressful times, and doing it this way gave everyone the chance to be properly settled and relaxed by the time they hit the start of the first stage.
The first two stages of the event were two passes across the excellent Beachport scenic drive. Mt Gambier local Peter Gazzard entered his tarmac spec Evo 9 in the rally just so he could do these two stages and then retired from the event before the gravel stages began. When asked, he said that he’d always wanted to compete on this road and wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity. Can’t knock that.
Two of the stages passed through this wind farm. I was really looking forward to shooting rally cars with a wind farm in the background, but unfortunately we were caught with a few delays at another stage about an hour and half’s drive away and missed the daytime running of these stages. I had to post a photo though, and this one was taken just after sunrise on Saturday when I recce’d a few of the stages. These stages were extremely fast, and Busby told me he hit well over 200km/h on this stage in the RX7.
Rallye Wattle Range lived up to the reputation of rallying in the South East – on the whole, the roads were extremely fast and very bumpy in a lot of places. Due to the fire ban still being in effect at this time of year the rally wasn’t allowed into the pine forests, so was mostly comprised of fast shire roads and open stretches through cattle farms.
The Day rollover caused SS8 to be cancelled. Mark Williams and I were shooting from a road closure, so after the stage was stopped the road closure official let us (probably foolishly) try to drive to the end of the stage. It was a lot rougher than I thought, so we were going pretty slowly. I got the surprise of my life when I looked up in the mirror to see most of the field right behind us! We stopped because the road was blocked at the rollover, and I’m not quite sure why the remaining three quarters of the field was transported from the start through the entire stage.
There was almost zero wind that night and the roads were very dusty, so the dust just hung in the air. Even at two minute gaps it didn’t really clear between cars, and the guys a little further down the field found it almost impossible to see. In this photo all of the specs are the flash reflecting off the dust particles. Note how much dust is in front of the car, and then imagine what the visibility must have been like at those speeds.
After the last car passed we went and experimented with some long exposure shots of the wind farms. We found the dust hanging in the air was a real problem, even a few hundred metres away from the road and half an hour after the last car passed. It was that thick. On a random note, those wind farms are pretty awesome things to stand up close to.
It was still a Saturday night and it was too far to drive back home, so after presentations attention soon turned to the Grand Hotel in Millicent. Steve was apparently ‘too lazy’ to change out of his race suit (onesie) before hitting the town, and these girls thought he was a parachutist. He went along with it.
It’s worth pointing out that this photo was taken at about 230am, almost 6 hours after competition finished. Good to see the onesie is still being used to pull the ladies at this hour of the night.
From here the championship heads to the Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rally on 18-20 May, which is fast gaining national recognition and is shaping up to be another epic battle. See you all there!
Here are the rest of my photographs – email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more samples of your car.
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