Walky 100 at Robertstown – SARC Round 2

Robbie 2014 (22)In a shock and completely unexpected result, Damian Reed has won the 2014 Robertstown Rally, round two of the South Australian Rally Championship, in his Mazda 121. Well… not quite. But his efforts in gallantly tackling this creek crossing which formed part of a rally postponed due to bad weather and impassable stage conditions surely deserves some kind of award.

Robbie 2014 (36)Apocalyptic conditions were forecast for the rally and the few days before it, and we prepared with boot fulls of wet weather gear, jumpers and rain covers for the cameras. To be honest it was almost a bit of a letdown when photographer Mark Williams and myself arrived at Robertstown on Friday afternoon to discover dry roads, dust and almost zero mud on our recce. The sun was even out.

Robbie 2014 (35)But as the sun dipped below the horizon and the ambient dropped even further a visible storm front approached bringing howling winds and rain. Lots of rain. As we sat around the bar of the Robertstown Pub that evening the much mooted storm front hit and stayed until daybreak. A lot of us were camping in the clubrooms of the Robertstown footy club that night and almost everyone was woken at some point by the rains. It was torrential.

Robbie 2014 (32)It was a little odd when at around 8am the organisers declared the rally postponed because the weather didn’t seem that bad. It was hardly raining, but the damage was done.

Robbie 2014 (30)This was one of the main routes through the service park, and it was merely indicative of what the course looked like. When word started filtering in about the stages I asked Mark, Damian Reed and Steve Fisher if they’d be interested in coming and checking it out for ourselves. For journalistic integrity reasons, of course. Gotta see it with out own eyes to make a fair judgement.

Robbie 2014 (25)We’d found some cracker photo spots for the event too, and we were determined to take photos of cars there one way or another.

Robbie 2014 (11)This is the first creek crossing on the Inspiration Point stage, and at 630pm on Friday night it was five or six inches deep and a few feet across. By 930am Saturday it had swelled considerably, so we sent Mark across first.

Robbie 2014 (23)Better judgement would suggest that the Mazda 121 is not fit for this task, but with a healthy amount of peer pressure and cameras at the ready we convinced Damo to tackle it. Longtime AGR readers might remember Damo from our 2Festi adventure, and know that he is always up for driving old bombs in inappropriate ways.

Robbie 2014 (19)The action part of this adventure is highlighted in the opening photo, however luck ran out and the poor little 121 died not far from opposing bank.

Robbie 2014 (20)One of the most amusing parts was seeing the submerged exhaust bubbling as he tried to crank it, and the water slowly filling up the car.

Robbie 2014 (18)Luckily a local soon came in a more appropriate vehicle and he was kind enough to push Damo out.

Robbie 2014 (7)After a lot of careful water removal from components that aren’t usually designed to contain water and about an hour of drying out the guys finally got the 121 to spring back into life.

Robbie 2014 (13)On cranking a healthy amount of water spewed from the exhaust pipe…

Robbie 2014 (6)… which was quickly replaced with steam once it fired up.

Robbie 2014 (14)There was no way I was going to tackle this crossing with my Subaru, so whilst the guys kept heading into the stage I turned around to follow the long way around and meet them at the flying finish.

Robbie 2014 (5)As it turned out I simply couldn’t find a way to the finish as every road I tried was blocked with flood water. I managed to cross this puddle without too much drama, but just on from it was a ford flowing deep and fast over the road. With no phone or CB radio coverage to get in contact with the guys I had no choice but to turn back to Robertstown and wait.

10463855_10152170805211301_1799077964836769659_oAndrew Challen had joined the little group by now, and they ended up finding four more creek crossings in the stage, none of which were there the night before. They got the 121 through by turning the engine off and towing it slowly across the water, and discovered that the first creek crossing we found was actually the shallowest. (Thanks to Mark Williams for this photo).

Robbie 2014 (4)With everyone regrouped and the little 121 running as strong as ever we headed out the other side of town to see the stages there. It was more of the same – no creek crossings but very muddy and slippery. We didn’t dare tackle the entire Hill Big One stage as we heard reports of it being so slippery that guys in proper 4WD’s in low range were almost getting stuck.

Robbie 2014 (2)It was a bit frustrating in a way because the weather had cleared up and 95% of the stages were in fine condition for rallying. It was just that they were punctuated by a few areas that were almost unnavigable, which meant the entire stage couldn’t really be run. The damage to the roads would have been huge, and there’s a definite safety issue in coming around corners marked at 8 or 9 to find standing sheet water or huge ruts that weren’t there during recce. Even little things like getting officials into the stages, who usually drive 2WD road cars, would be a major headache. Throw in the safety issues surrounding attempting to get First Intervention Vehicles and ambulances through swollen creek crossings and up slippery hills should the worst happen and the Clerk of Course’s decision becomes clear. It was a bitterly disappointing but ultimately responsible decision.

Robbie 2014 (27)But fear not, because despite the huge costs suffered the rally has simply been postponed, and will be back bigger and better later on in the year. The organisers are working out a date, but it will likely be at some point in September. AGR will keep you posted when more is known.

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

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