Big wet takes its toll at Rally Calder
Persistent rain, muddy tracks and treacherous conditions marked day two of Rally Calder presented by East Coast Bullbars with the rally schedule being cut short by the slushy conditions and last gasp victories in both two and four wheel drive competition.
Queenslander Steven Shepherd in a Mitsubishi Evo 10 won the second heat making it two from two after taking the first heat on Friday with some consistent and persistent driving in a day of changing fortunes in the Four-Wheel-Drive Bosch Australian Rally Championship.
Shepheard admitted he made a slow start to the day sitting as low as fifth after the first few stages before a major rethink on car set up enabled him to pick up the pace and push though to sit in equal second heading into the day’s final stage.
A huge effort on the final test saw Shepheard in the Evo X take a stunning heat victory.
“I was thrilled with the last gasp win, that was an unbelievable day, I’m stoked to get the points, but we all feel for Charlie Drake who had a good lead today, but then had a mechanical problem,” said Shepheard.
“We seriously gave 101 per cent commitment in the last few stages, and it paid off.
“Both heats so far have been incredibly close between the top contenders and its only one muffed corner and you drop two or three places.”
West Australian Tom Wilde quite literally had a wild ride in his Mitsubishi Evo10, after gaining the lead early in the heat he slipped back to sixth before fighting back to finish the day in second position just 4.8 seconds behind Shepheard.
Expatriate Irishman Charlie Drake brought his Mitsubishi Evo 9 home in third for the heat after those mechanical issues slowed him in the closing stages and robbed him of a potential debut ARC heat win.
In the Two Wheel Drive Bosch ARC South Australian Nissan Silvia driver Jack Monkhouse took the fight up to the works Hondas of Evans and Pedder with the privateer Nissan driver leading the heat with some daring attacks right up to the last stage when Eli Evans took back the lead and the eventual heat win.
Evans made a wrong tyre choice and paid the price slipping to second mid way through the heat. Evans raced past Monkhouse in the afternoon’s final stages to also make it two from two after his Friday heat win.
Evans teammate Mark Pedder was forced to miss a stage due to differential failure during the afternoon and would finish the day in ninth.
“It was a great finish for us despite the treacherous conditions and proved that anything could happen in this sort of rally, we chose the wrong tyre part way through the day and lost time but we were able to fight back and make it two from two, it was fantastic,” said Eli Evans.
“It was unfortunate for Mark Pedder to have the diff problem, we would love to have made it another Honda one-two but it wasn’t to be.”
South Australian Rallyschool Junior Challenge contender Michael Busby brought his aged Mazda RX7 home in third in the Two Wheel Championship heat 39.9 secs behind Monkhouse after another day-long battle with Junior Challenge opponent Adrian Coppin in a Ford Fiesta.
Coppin won the fight on Friday’s heat finishing fourth overall and beating Busby by two places but the Mazda driver reversed his fortunes on heat two as well as taking the Junior Challenge points.
Neal Bates’ in his new TTE replica Celica continued to dominate the Classic Rally Challenge conceding only two stages to Jeff David’s Porsche 911 during the intense day of competition across all classes in the rally.
The Rallyschool.com.au Australian Junior challenge saw Victorian Dane Berry in a Mitsubishi Evo 4 at the top of the class all day in the four-wheel-drive class leading home the Subaru of South Australian James Rodda while, as previously mentioned in the two wheel drive, the Busby- Coppin battle saw the former take the RJAC two-wheel-drive heat points.
Peter Gazzard has maintained his lead in the Australian Tarmac Rally Championship Modern with back-to-back heat wins and the Ford RS200 of Stephen Sims was the king of the Classics.
Crews face a further three stages in the final day of Rally Calder before progressing to two bonus stages in the afternoon with the winners expected to be announced at four o’clock. Tickets are available at the gate with a two for one promotion running for the duration of the final day of Rally Calder presented by East Coast Bullbars.