Ryan Smart cleans up in ARC opener

Smart began his 2011 ARC campaign in fine style

Smart began his 2011 ARC campaign in fine style

Queensland Toyota driver Ryan Smart has dominated the opening round of the Bosch Australian Rally Championship, taking victory in both heats of the Quit Forest in his Toyota Corolla Sportivo.

Smart, a 29 year old motor mechanic from Yandina on the Sunshine Coast, tackled the second day of the rally with the same fast and aggressive style as he displayed on Day 1 – winning the heat by 29.1 seconds from Victorian Mitsubishi driver Mark Pedder.

It was the first rally to be run under the new ‘Unrestricted’ formula for the championship with the leading turbo cars not running turbo restrictors, resulting in power outputs of up to 400bhp.

Steven Shepheard led the heat early after taking the first two tarmac stages around Busselton on Saturday evening, but a turbocharger failure mid-way through the day forced the Mitsubishi Evo 10 driver out of the rally.

Shepheard’s demise left Smart to battle Pedder and the Mitsubishi of Justin Dowell also from Victoria.

Smart was fastest on four of the ten stages today and was always in command in the dry and dusty forests around Nannup, 60 km inland from Busselton, on the West Australian coast.

The victory for Smart, who was runner up in the 2010 Australian Championship, means he takes the series lead to his home rally in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in a month’s time.

“It was a bit nerve wracking into the last one but we did it,” said Smart.

“We’re over the moon. It was a lot of hard work in the off season and we didn’t know what to expect coming into this event.

“I was disappointed on Friday evening being off the pace but once we were in the forests we knew we had the goods, my new co – driver John Allen has kept me level headed all weekend and we’re stoked at the win.

“I am very confident heading to our home event, being familiar with the roads and terrain so we’re very confident of a win and bagging some more championship points to extend our lead.”

Mark Pedder tried hard to match the pace of Smart but was unable to consistently take time from the Toyota driver in the dry and challenging forests.

Pedder had his own battles fending off the hard charging fellow Victorian Mitsubishi driver Justin Dowell. Despite nursing an ailing gearbox all rally, Dowell managed to close to within three seconds of Pedder, crossing the finishing line 2.9 seconds behind in third.

Local WA Subaru driver Alex Stone brought his car home in a fine fourth place ahead of fellow West Australian Subaru WRX drivers Tom Wilde and Chris Anderson.

Wilde took the Rallyschool.com.au Junior Australian Rally Challenge for four-wheel-drive cars while Victorian Will Orders took the two-wheel-drive honours in his Nissan Silvia – the pair qualifying for the Junior challenge shootout at Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour in September.

The rally took its toll with eight cars forced out in today’s second heat including the works Honda of Eli Evans, which broke a drive-shaft just three stages from home, while the local Subaru of Andrew McDonald exited with a spectacular rollover at a spectator point.

Stewart Reid comprehensively won the Classic section in his newly built Ford Escort RS1800 coming home 2 mins 27 secs in front of the Holden Commodore V8 of former Australian Rally Champion Barry Lowe

Round 2 of the five round Bosch Australian Rally Championship will be the International Rally Of Queensland on May 13-15.

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