The Classic Adelaide Rally returns

AGR_CA_15 (106)Etched in the pages of South Australian motorsport history is the Classic Adelaide Rally, arguably right up there with the Grand Prix as one of the great motoring high water marks of our state.

AGR_CA_15 (46)The glory days, they were. You look back at photos of the event in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and are somewhat amazed that it even happened. Le Mans winning Jaguars, a La Carrera Panamericana winning Mercedes, an endless line of Porsche and Ferrari and a certain bright yellow Mk1 Escort. But after a decade of success the event lost its way, the prestige of it all got too much and it was lost in a sea of scandal and unpaid invoices.

AGR_CA_15 (137)Late last year the rumors began to spread that Classic Adelaide was back, and eventually it was confirmed that the rally would join the Victoria Park Sprint in forming the wider Adelaide Motorsport Festival. Promoted by the Sporting Car Club and organised by Targa, the new Classic Adelaide is very much a case of starting out small and growing the event again from scratch.

AGR_CA_15 (66)Year One of the new Classic Adelaide wasn’t as long or as grand as the event used to be in its heyday but it proved that the magic is still there. Some of the most famous closed road stages made a return and were joined by some pretty decent new ones, too. The famous Friday night Gouger St party made a return, as did the long morning tea and lunch stops the event became so famous for.

AGR_CA_15 (130)The key to the original Classic Adelaide’s success was the way in which it mixed serious competition with a relaxed classic car atmosphere in some beautiful locations. Whilst still in it’s infancy, the new Classic Adelaide seems to be recreating this mix pretty nicely.

AGR_CA_15 (60)The centerpiece of Classic Adelaide is still the outright competition classes, where carefully prepared classic rally cars battle each other by mere tenths of a second for outright stage times. Taking third place in the outright competition was the ’69 Datsun 240Z of Tim and Claudia Knappstein.

AGR_CA_15 (5)Experienced local competitors Craig Haysman and Dennis Sims took second place outright in their thundering ’79 Triumph TR8…

AGR_CA_15 (158)… with less than a minute gap to the overall winners of the Classic Adelaide Rally in one of the most awesome cars of the event. Adam Kaplan and Mary Hughes took out the overall win as well as the Late Classic Handicap class win in their flame-throwing ’85 Mazda RX-7.

AGR_CA_15 (69)Cameron Wearing and Gary McLean pushed their ’68 Alfa Giulia Super to the win in the Early Classic Handicap class.

AGR_CA_15 (134)An exciting new addition to tarmac rallying is the introduction of the Thoroughbred Trophy category. The fastest stage time in this class still wins, but there is a RallySafe GPS enforced 130km/h speed limit which means full roll cages and harnesses are not mandatory. This suddenly opens the sport up to those who might not have been able to enter full competition but still want to drive as fast as they can through the corners. The winners of the TSD class at Classic Adelaide were Tim Pryzibilla and Dainis Sillins in an ’84 Porsche 911, in full Jager livery and built to IROC specs. It was a cool car.

AGR_CA_15 (33)Claiming second place was Kristian Downing and Clayton Webber in another ’84 Porsche 911.

AGR_CA_15 (82)Taking an amazing third place in their first ever competitive motorsport event were Karl Von Sanden and Alex Visintin in Karl’s ’83 Porsche 944. It was an amazing effort from the pair, and they even displayed grace under pressure when they were quickly caught and brutally passed by the Group B spec Audi Quattro on the Paris Creek stage.

AGR_CA_15 (80)AGR_CA_15 (78)AGR_CA_15 (76)AGR_CA_15 (74)An experience like this would have rattled plenty of more experienced crews. They were a little shocked to see it in the mirrors so soon, but did mention that it was pretty cool seeing and hearing the Audi pull away into the distance so quickly.

AGR_CA_15 (88)AGR_CA_15 (105)The event kicked off with a wet and rainy start on the old Grand Prix track at Victoria Park on the Friday morning. There was a strong dealer presence from the likes of Adelaide Motors and Mercedes Benz Adelaide, whose tour groups led the field.

AGR_CA_15 (90)Just as it was in the old days, the various tour components made up almost half of the field which makes for a more relaxing start for the serious competition guys, who run from slowest to fastest after the tour groups. As the new Ferrari’s and Porsche’s are heading over the start ramp, the competition teams had plenty of time for a final check of the car and a morning coffee with the crew. The competition cars were tucked safe under the marquee as the rain fell heavier and heavier, no doubt causing concern among a few.

AGR_CA_15 (98)AGR_CA_15 (100)AGR_CA_15 (101)The new-car highlight for me was the assembled gathering of Ferrari’s final naturally aspirated hero – I counted at least two 458 Speciale’s and two of the even rarer 458 Speciale Aperta spiders entered in the rally. I’m sure there were more Speciale’s about the place over the weekend, too.

AGR_CA_15 (92)Some of the cars for the concurrent Adelaide Motorsport Festival had began to arrive and provided an interesting backdrop. I mean, as cool as the rally cars are, it isn’t every day that Senna’s ’85 Adelaide GP winning Lotus is sitting on it’s own in the corner of a large tent near the start ramp. I wasn’t alone in finding it tricky to focus on the rally at times.

AGR_CA_15 (112)Unfortunately the Any Given Reason website took a bit of a secondary role during the Adelaide Motorsport Festival/Classic Adelaide weekend as I was acting as the official photographer for the event, which took priority. Even thought it was a tough weekend, it was good fun to push the limits and see my work appear in many more places than just this humble tome. I managed to break my own personal record by working a straight 39 hour day, but no matter how tired I got the assembled group of exciting cars being driven hard in the rally worked better than any espresso could. I only had a limited grasp of what was actually happening in the overall event, which had the pleasant side effect of constantly surprising me as each new car came around the corner.

AGR_CA_15 (131)A personal favorite was Mike Lowe’s exceedingly rare ’59 Abarth 750 Zagato, proving there might indeed be a replacement for displacement.

AGR_CA_15 (140)Ferrari Australasia CEO Herbert Appleroth drove the new Ferrari 488 GTB, the first time a 488 had been driven on Australian roads. We’ve seen a left hook 488 doing the rounds of dealer launch events a few months back, AGR even attended the Adelaide launch, but this is the first Australian spec right hand drive car to land. You’ll see these everywhere by this time next year but it’s a relative rarity at the moment.

AGR_CA_15 (108)Ever seen a Rolls-Royce Wraith being used as a tarmac rally car? Neither had I. Well, it was in the tour category but it was certainly being exercised rather more spiritedly than Henry Royce would have ever intended. Whilst it might not have been the fastest, there’s no doubt that the crew arrived at the finish function more refreshed than anyone else.

AGR_CA_15 (139)In a slight change of pace when compared to the Rolls, 1983 Le Mans winner and Adelaide resident Vern Schuppan drove the just-launched AMG GT S. It was just a shade quicker than the Wraith, and driven exactly as its makers intended.

AGR_CA_15 (116)In addition to the new Porsche Cayman GT4 tarmac rally car being demonstrated by Jim Richards and Barry Oliver, there was an entire tour category from the Porsche Driving Experience devoted to just newer versions of the famous Stuttgart brand.

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AGR_CA_15 (64)Englishman and double Le Mans class winner Ray Bellm brought out his immaculately prepared Mk1 Escort from Wales, which was once driven by none other than Hannu Mikkola. It sounded fantastic all weekend and the noise from the almost unbelievably close-ratio box was a surefire highlight of the event for me.

AGR_CA_15 (58)Another star car of the event also wore an English blue oval…

AGR_CA_15 (156)AGR_CA_15 (6)… Tony Quinn’s magnificent Ford RS200, co-driven by Naomi Tillett. This is a serious car, and seriously tricky to drive with its short wheelbase, mid-engined placement and huge turbo lag. It was a lucky pleasure to watch a genuine Group B car driven as quickly as possible – still fast by today’s standards.

AGR_CA_15 (15)Unfortunately, mechanical problems saw the RS200 retire on the transport section just after the mamoth 42km ‘The Cape’ special stage.

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AGR_CA_15 (31)Continuing the Group B theme, Stewart Reid entered his ’86 Quattro in the demonstration class. This car is a replica Group B rally car built from a road going Quattro, but it makes all the right noises and I’d be incredibly surprised if it isn’t as least as quick as the Group B cars of the period. This thing is seriously rapid.

AGR_CA_15 (23)The highlight for many is the Gouger Street Party, the time when the rally comes into the heart of the city on a pumping Friday night and takes over for a few hours.

AGR_CA_15 (65)It’s a really nice gesture to the motoring community. Not everyone can take time away from work or family commitments to go out to a stage during the day, especially those with young kids. But almost everyone can swing through the city for a few hours’ after work and at least catch a quick glimpse of the event. I met several people I know in that exact situation who had been looking forward to the street party for weeks.

AGR_CA_15 (67)The original plan was to hold a 530pm street parade and actually drive the Formula One cars from the Victoria Park Sprint right through the city at peak hour and into the Gouger Street Party. Could you actually imagine seeing those F1 cars driven on the public roads surrounded by buses and workday commuters and tradie vans? It would have been the best thing ever, but a torrential passing rain storm that hung around meant cancelling the parade was the only option. Now that I think about it, driving $15 million worth of irreplaceable racing cars on slick tyres through the city streets in pouring rain wouldn’t have been the best idea.

AGR_CA_15 (48)Even without the F1 cars Gouger Street and the Chinatown district was packed all night.

AGR_CA_15 (30)There were so many people that it was very difficult to even get a clear shot of the cars.

AGR_CA_15 (27)AGR_CA_15 (45)The bars and restaurants were overflowing…

AGR_CA_15 (59)… and at times it felt like almost everybody connected to cars or motorsport in South Australia was there.

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AGR_CA_15 (25)Anyone who remembers the original Classic Adelaide would be aware that it isn’t just the cars that make the event special, it’s the atmosphere that goes along with it.

AGR_CA_15 (56)Even if you’re not lucky enough to be competing there’s still a good time to be had. It’s about bumping into friends in the weirdest back blocks of the hills and watching some cars for a few hours.

AGR_CA_15 (20)It’s about getting out and seeing some parts of our beautiful state that you might not visit every day…

AGR_CA_15 (144)… or fantasising about having a proper crack on some roads you do drive every day.

AGR_CA_15 (49)With the organisational pull of Targa and a driving force who understand what made the original event so great, I’m pretty confident to say that Classic Adelaide has returned.

AGR_CA_15 (16)It’s only going to grow from here.

AGR_CA_15 (155)Words and photos by Andrew Coles



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Andrew Coles:


  1. david beaumont November 17, 2015 Reply

    Brilliant report Andrew - love your work.
    With your permission, I'm going to use the photo (source acknowledged) of Jason Nichol's Bugatti in the November edition of the Bugatti Club of Australia E-newsletter

    • Andrew Coles November 29, 2015 Reply

      Hi David - not a problem at all, thanks for checking. Andrew

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