2012 Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rally

The father and son team of Matthew and Dennis Sims have stormed to outright victory in the recent Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rally, Round 2 of the CAMS Australian Tarmac Championship, held from 18-20th May in the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula area.

Matt Selley and Hamish McKendrick fought hard in Selley’s new Evo and finished a credible 2nd outright. Despite a potentially worrying electrical issue that had them sidelined on the transport for a short time after Friday’s last stage, the Evo displayed serious speed but never realistically challenged the Sims’ R35. However it was a fast, consistent drive from Selley and McKendrick – they finished 2nd outright in 16 of the 22 stages, even winning two of them.

Just 47 seconds behind Selley, and claiming the final podium position, was the pair of Andrew Booker and Chris Edmondson in their Nissan 180SX. The boys punted it hard all weekend and it was quite a sight to see. From the outside it looks just like any 180 you see around the streets, but lurking beneath is a comprehensively prepared and setup tarmac rally car.

The quickly-becoming-famous Jones Brothers claimed first place in the Classic Outright category. It’s really quite an incredible story – brother’s Peter and Bryan Jones built the Torana from scratch themselves, even down to making a makeshift spray booth in their carport so they could paint it. The car looks immaculate, it sounds like a V8 should and has plenty of pace to back it all up. What more could you want?

The Triumph TR7 V8 of Craig Haysman and Neil Branum claimed 2nd place in Classic Outright, leaving 3rd to the Porsche 924 GTS Club Sport of Glyn Crimp and Frank Bookhouse.

Round 2 of the South Australian Rally Championship was held on the Saturday. In a stunning comeback, Declan Dwyer and Craig Adams took a convincing victory in the brand new DNA Rallysport Evo 6. Declan recently purchased the car from interstate and has only had it for a few weeks. Declan’s old co-driver from back in the day came over from Perth for the event, and it was only really meant to be a shakedown event for the new car. Pretty wild shakedown if you ask me.

The Jones Brothers also entered the historic class of the SARC, and in a complete shock managed to finish an incredible 2nd outright! The rally trainspotters out there have probably already worked it out, but this would be the first time a 2wd car has finished on the podium of a state championship round for quite a few years. I wonder if they’ll try to back it up on the gravel at Robertstown in a few weeks time…

Russell Marker and Karien Heimsohn put in another solid effort to finish third, their second third place finish of the championship. It seems once again Marker is proving that consistency and solid results are the path to overall success.

The Coonalpyn team of Trent and Aaron long once again finished in 4th place, their second 4th place finish in only their second ever rally. I’m really hoping these guys go well at Robertstown and Rally SA – just think, this could possibly be the highest ever state championship finish for a debut team.

James Rodda and Claire Ryan managed to finish 6th. This was the first time James had run the WRX on borrowed tarmac suspension and found the damp early stages to be extremely twitchy. James put in a very mature drive, not risking an accident by pushing too hard to make up for the lack of grip. He said that they had plenty of grip once the roads dried out later in the day, but found gearing to be an issue on the longer stages. It seems 5 gears just aren’t enough anymore on some of these roads! Nonetheless, they still made the front page of the Hills Courier newspaper. Ballin’.

Here James’ co-driver Claire Ryan is demonstrating her new pace note calling technique. I’d say it still needs a little work…

The undisputed highlight SARC entry for me was the Mini Cooper S of Jeremy Browne and  Robert Hunt. Jeremy bought the Cooper brand new in England and rallied it all over Europe throughout the 70’s – Amscol Butter was Jeremy’s sponsor back in the day, so the recently applied signage was a nice nod to the car’s history. Interestingly, this Mini last competed in the SARC with Jeremy behind the wheel almost 30 years ago!

I had a rather enjoyable event, too. This time I wasn’t huddled on the side of the road in the rain with my camera – I was extremely lucky and privileged to be co-driving with Sebastian Lip in his R35 GTR as a Zero Course Car. It was an amazing and sometimes humbling experience, and you can expect a dedicated post on it soon.

For me, the Tarmac Rally started on Thursday night. When I’m competing, the night before a rally is usually spent carefully refining pacenotes, and as a photographer it’s spent poring over maps and schedules. For this event, rally eve was spent in an entirely different way…

… I was assisting with the most epic photo shoot I’ve ever been a part of. The shoot deserves its own post, so look for it soon.

The prologue was held at Mallala Raceway on Friday morning, and the stages then ran through some of the most beautiful and scenic roads our state has to offer over the next three days…

… manned, as always, by a small army of dedicated volunteers. Some smiled…

… some pretended to be aeroplanes. Either way, they all put in a fantastic effort.

They were very resourceful in their equipment procurement, too.

I’m sure everyone who saw the rally was left speechless the first time they saw the Kaplan’s Commodore. Done up in period Bathurst signage, this thing sounded identical to a V8 Supercar. I’m not joking or exaggerating – it was identical. The throbbing V8, the straight cut gear whine. Even the ratios and the shift times sounded identical. If you closed your eyes you’d swear you were at the Clipsal 500. And now just picture this thing rolling down the main street of Lobethal. Pretty cool.

Joe Darcy and his crew were out filming a promo video for the event. Bali Strickland of Bali Strickland Productions was a part of Joe’s crew, and had his new remote control helicopter out doing some filming.

Far removed from your average hobby store ‘copter, this one was carbon fibre and was fitted with a 1080p HD video recorder for beautiful, smooth panning shots.

Bali flew the ‘copter with one remote, and his assistant controlled the camera with another by looking at what he was shooting on that little screen. I’ve seen some of the footage straight off the camera, and am confident that the promo video they produce will be something special.

New for this year was a little box that sat in your car called a Rally Safe. It provided you with a whole lot of cool info – time, location and current exact speed. It also alerted you if a car was coming behind and looking to pass, and showed if you were on transport, in control or on the stage. But its real party trick is to keep you safe – it alerts rally control and the car behind you if you stop for more than a few seconds. It means if you plunge off a cliff you’re not going to sit there for eternity – rally control will be helping you before you even know where you are.

The rally used Serafino Wines at McLaren Vale as a base. It’s almost as if Serafino was designed to hold a rally – large grass area for trailer parking, a large flat bitumised area for service, a function room, an award winning restaurant and plenty of wine. I can personally say that the restaurant is worth eating at – it’s the kind of place that actually has a cigar menu. I’m fairly sure that the Robertstown footy club or the Millicent showgrounds don’t have cigar menus. This is something the rally panel needs to take into consideration when planning events from now on, I think.

On Saturday morning we stopped to help out at the Inman Valley stop point for a little while. It was great to help out in such a hands on way, but it did mean we missed two of Saturday morning’s stages. And whilst the GTR was proving its worth as a fast tarmac rally car and an extremely convenient lunch tray, we unfortunately suffered a minor mechanical problem on Saturday evening which put us out, and meant the car would be confined to the trailer for Sunday.

There was an upside, though. After several late nights followed by a row of 5am starts, I was kind of welcoming a bit of a sleep in. We retired back to the restaurant at Serafino to discuss our plans over dinner and a few glasses of the local product. Our options for the next day seemed endless, but all began with a sleep in. Talk soon spread to party tricks, and how if you held a beer bottle the right way and hit it from the top, it would all shatter out the bottom. As it turned out, Joe learnt that you should never make a claim unless you’re prepared to back it up. It actually worked to our amazement. Joe… you got off this time!

After yet another late night, caused partly by sparkling conversation and partly by my attempts at some midnight long exposure photography, I was woken by a 630am phone call from course car manager Howie Ryan wanting to know if we could be the Safety 1 course car for the day. The only car we had available was Seb’s tow car, and we wouldn’t get that sleep in after all. But who in their right mind would turn down a day of rallying?

Which is how we became (probably) the first people to tarmac rally an AMG G55.

It was far comfier than the GTR, and with more than 500hp available it was almost as exciting, for entirely different reasons. Look for a dedicated drive post soon.

Running at a more relaxed end of the field gave us time to notice the details that are often missed, like these horses watching the action.

Harrooo! I am a rarry fan!

Despite black rally cars…

… and beautiful black spectator cars…

… only we were known as the Men In Black. I’m not sure who labelled us…

… I’m pretty sure it was that damned Meercat.

He did a much more professional job of labelling the gopher’s, though.

Despite all the joking about there was serious competition taking place.

You can just see the look of pure concentration in Matt Sims’ face going into the last stage of the event.

As the Sunday afternoon sun hung low in the air, a crowd of people gathered to watch the traditional winners champagne spray.

A proud moment enjoyed by the winners, aided by the oversized bottles of Serafino champagne.

Winning an event like this must give all sorts of intangible joys. It’s enough to make grown men cover their cars in sticky champagne…

… and to hug each other in ways they probably wouldn’t otherwise.

It’s good to see.

From here the South Australian Rally Championship heads up to the lovely country town of Robertstown for Round 3, the Copyworld Walky 100 on June 23. See you all there!

– You may have noticed that some of the photos show the MWP Sports Photography watermark. As an event official my primary focus wasn’t on photography, and Mark Williams was kind enough to supply Any Given Reason with some of his photos from the event for this post. He has a lot of other spectacular ones – check them out!

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  1. Brian Matthews May 25, 2012 Reply

    some great photos. I was one of many volunteers for the event.

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