Tony Sullens and Kaylie Newell have emerged as outright winners of the AMSAG Bulahdelah Classic Rally held on Saturday 29th July. The pairing piloted their Subaru Impreza WRX to a comfortable victory in what was the fourth round of the popular Pipe King Southern Cross Rally Series. Queenslander Tom Dermody, teamed with Eoin Moynihan, recovered from an early setback to storm through the capacity field and take Classic victory in their Ford Escort RS1800.
Bulahdelah turned on magnificent winter weather, with the rally running in almost perfect conditions. The event was designed to have an 80’s feel, making the most of the Mid-North Coast rally roads for 8 daylight stages culminating in a 41km night stage. 150 competitive kilometres awaited the crews with a mere 85km transport around a central service area.
Series leader Ian Plenderleith led the field away in his Lancer Evo3 and was also the first retirement when he struck a rock, and broke a control arm midway through the first stage. Classic frontrunner Tom Dermody found the same rock and punctured a tyre, whereas Adrian Turnbull’s Subaru was slowed by dust. As the first loop of stages continued, Nathan Quinn’s Mazda RX2 broke not one, but two wheels resulting in a missed control and 60min penalty. The Skeffington Datsun and Pinckham Commodore both withdrew with mechanical failures, as did the only lady driver in the event, Amanda Williams in the Mazda GTX with a broken tailshaft. Local crew and top 5 finishers from last years event, Jake Bramble and Brett Kerr in a Nissan GTiR were another crew to DNF before the first Service after a heavy impact with a concrete causeway brought an early end to their day.
Clear of any issues, Sullens led the rally at end of the first loop of 4 stages from Dave Darby and Shane Griffis in their 2wd Nissan 180SX. Jeff Davies and Dane Brooker (Datsun 1600) were 3rd outright to lead the Classics from 18th seed. Jody Mill/Daniel Ragen had travelled from Narrandera and were 4th Outright in the ex-Ordynski Lancer ahead of the Subaru of Peter Neal/Craig Whyburn.
Rally Stalwarts Ian Hill and Phil Bonser (Escort) were 2nd Classic in 7th Outright, ahead of another flying Irishman PJ O’Keefe who had his Escort jumping 12 positions to be 8th Outright and 3rd Classic.
As the rally progressed, it was becoming more evident that a clear run through the tricky stages would net a strong finishing position. The next to find trouble was PJ O’Keefe/Paddy Skelton, rolling their Escort on Stage 5, a repeat of Stage 1, and temporarily blocking the stage. Peter Joass/Cheryl Brown were quickly on the scene in their Evo2 and with the assistance of the Houghton/Bylhouwer entry were able to clear the stage.
Another top 10 exit was that of Doug and Luke Grimes when their newly acquired Nissan Silvia left the road and slipped down an embankment. Ian Hill retired the Escort with overheating issues and Tony Barry/Treise Carey struck a tree in their Ford Escort. Barry was running in 12th Outright at the time after an impressive charge up the leaderboard from 33rd seed.
At the front the heavy hitters were winding up in an attempt to take back some time from Sullens, but it was short-lived with both Darby and Davies forced to retire with fuel and engine issues respectively. Dermody took stage victory on Stage 7 and 8 to close to 5th Outright and regain the classic lead.
The re-shuffled top 10 still had Sullens leading, but Adrian Turnbull was now in 2nd after numerous top 3 stage times. Peter Neal and Jody Mill were scrapping over 3rd, followed by Dermody. Tied on 6th was the Datsun of Leigh Manning/Logan Waterhouse and the Commodore of Rob Inall/Lizzy Ferme in their first AMSAG event as a pairing.
Ron and Lachlan Moore had the Evo6 in 8th with a consistent run ahead of Jack Wightman/Steve Beaufoy in the 280Z. Rounding off the top ten was Brett Wright and Tommi Flegl in the Gemini. Nathan Quinn/Tonny Barrie had recovered to be 25th Outright.
The 41km night stage was temporarily held-up to allow fire truck access to a resident property. The event was reseeded into outright order and 3 minute dust gaps applied, to the joy of Dermody and Quinn who were both looking to continue their charge by taking a stage victory.
Tony Sullens and Kaylie Newell completed the stage without incident in 30 minutes flat, to take a controlled rally victory. Adrian and Kristy Turnbull put in a commendable performance to be a clear 2nd Outright. Dermody charged into the night and grabbed another 2 positions, posting a time of 30.10 on the monster stage to win the Classic category for the third time in a row. Peter Neal rounded off the Open podium in his Subaru, with Jody Mill unfortunately crashing into retirement on Manning Hill Rd.
Leigh Manning lost out to Rob Inall by a mere 5 seconds to fill out the Classic Podium positions, whilst Nathan Quinn took the Classic stage victory with a time of 30.01.
Kevin Ashby/Rae Waterhouse managed to crack the top 10 in the Nissan Silvia for the second time this year. Aaron Casmiri/Paul Bailey brought the FWD Honda home for a class victory in 11th Outright, a jump of 30 positions, ahead of stalwarts Bruce Garland/Steve Green in the Mk1 Escort.
Father and son team, Stewart and Thomas Khouri, won the Cross Country class in their Pajero Evo in 15th Outright.
1. Tony Sullens/Kaylie Newell – Subaru WRX
2. Adrian and Kristy Turnbull – Subaru WRX
3. Peter Neal/Craig Whyburn – Subaru WRX
1. Tom Dermody/Eoin Moynihan – Ford Escort
2. Rob Inall/Lizzy Ferme – Holden Commodore
3. Leigh Manning/Logan Waterhouse – Datsun 1600
The series now moves the NSW Central West for the Orange Rally on 16th September 2017, before returning to the Mid-North Coast on 28th October 2017 for the Blacksmiths Inn Rally held around Johns River. Event Results and further information for competitors and spectators on upcoming events can be found on www.amsag.com.au