Western Australians winning on world rally stageWednesday, 22 November 2017
Nathan Quinn and Ben Searcy flying through Rally Australia. Photo: Wishart Media
In the final round of the World Rally Championship (WRC), international and local drivers put on a show for rally fans for a gripping finish in Kennards Hire Rally Australia held in Coffs Harbour from 16-20 November 2017.
The final day of action was scheduled to include five stages, two runs through Pilbara Reverse (9.93km) and Wedding Bells (6.44km), as well as tackling the longer 31.90km Bucca test.
Torrential rain from the start of the day created chaotic conditions with standing water and unpredictable rainfall making the stages a lottery. Ultimately, conditions were so bad that event organisers were forced to cancel the penultimate stage, the repeat of Pilbara Reverse.
In the sport’s top tier, Hyundai’s Belgian ace Thierry Neuville survived challenging conditions to record his first Rally Australia victory and fourth rally win of the season.
Australian Rally Championship
In the national championship, Coffs Harbour local Nathan Quinn with co-driver Ben Searcy (WA) won the event and Quinn also won the CAMS Australian Rally Drivers Championship (ARC).
In their Coffs Coast Rally Team Mitsubishi Evo IX, a nine-year-old car, Quinn / Searcy finished Rally Australia in ninth place outright, in the WRC points.
Clearly emotional, when asked about his win, Quinn said, “It’s pretty good,” as a deluge of tears flowed like the morning’s rain.
“It’s such a mental build up to get here and a lot of pressure. We run the team on a tight budget like most privateers,” Quinn, 31, said.
WRC commentator Colin Clarke named Quinn star of the week.
Ben Searcy said he was impressed with Quinn’s driving ability and composure on the stages.
“Nathan drove a blinder. There was a torrential downpour during the first three stages on the final day and the conditions were quite treacherous to be honest. He drove very sensibly and very smart to finish the event, and he was still winning stages,” Searcy said.
Quinn dominated the national field in the fifth and final ARC round, winning all three legs, taking 12 of 17 stage wins and claiming first outright by a staggering 13 minutes.
They were battling last year’s ARC winner Molly Taylor (NSW) and Bill Hayes (WA) of Subaru do who had an unfortunate engine issue at the end of Leg 2 that could not be fixed, forcing retirement.
Bill Hayes said it was a tough day in the office.
“A disappointing weekend. We’d found a very comfortable and safe pace that should have rewarded us with back to back championships only to have a small engine issue that became terminal. The crew worked for six hours trying to make a repair that would allow us to continue but unfortunately it was not to be. It has been another character building experience that will make this team stronger and better for the future,” Hayes said.
While the Rally Australia result was disappointing for Subaru Do, Hayes did have something to cheer about, winning the ARC Co-Drivers Championship.
Finishing the ARC in third and in 16th outright were West Australians John O’Dowd and Kenneth Sheil of Maximum Motorsport in a Subaru WRX STI.
It was O’Dowd’s first ARC podium, he took out the ARC2 4WD title and secured third in the ARC driver championship.
“First ARC podium, it’s fantastic. It’s a really good end to the year for the team, we couldn’t be happier,” said O’Dowd.
“To take out ARC2 was a bonus, we didn’t expect that but we will take it.”
Maximum Motorsport teammate Dean Herridge (WA) with co-driver Sam Hill, a new pairing for Rally Australia, in a formidable performance, finished impressively in tenth place outright in a Subaru WRX STI.
It had been eleven years since Herridge had competed at Rally Australia alongside the world’s best.
“I’m delighted with tenth outright, second Australian, I’ll take that any day of the week, especially since it’s been a while. WRC events are demanding and conditions were tricky, Sunday was horrendous. I was hoping that I could find some of the old form and I’d like to think that experience is what got us through,” Herridge said.
Adopted West Australian Mike Young entered Rally Australia with one goal in mind, to finish.
The 24-year-old driver from Balga did better than that; he was the first 2WD to finish. With compatriot Malcolm Read (NZ) co-driving in their Citroën DS3 R3, the duo put in a solid performance to finish in 17th place outright.
Father and son team Jason Lowther and Paul Lowther, 62, from Australind were excited to enter their first WRC event in their Toyota Corolla.
“It was an awesome experience to be part of the WRC. The crowds out in the stages are incredible. And they love rallying, whether it’s the world rally cars or even our old corolla. It is definitely an experience I won’t forget,” the 38-year-old said.
Unfortunately the duo hit a tree on the first stage of the final day, Pilbara Reverse 1, without injury. Their Corolla however did sustain damage and while superficial, resulted in oil cooler damage preventing them from continuing.
Eight of the 20 cars, or 40 percent of the ARC field didn’t finish Rally Australia.
Recently crowned five-times World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport) finished fourth after topping the Power Stage run in fine conditions and televised live on free-to-air in Australia.
For full results, visit www.rallyaustralia.com.au
|Provisional Top 10 Outright – Kennards Hire Rally Australia ARC|
|Provisional Top 5 – 2017 CAMS Australian Rally Champion Driver Pointscore|
|1.||Nathan Quinn||331 points|
|2.||Molly Taylor||282 points|
|3.||John O’Dowd||216 points|
|4.||Craig Books||197 points|
|5.||Harry Bates||195 points|
|Provisional Top 5 – 2017 CAMS Australian Rally Champion Co-Driver Pointscore|
|1.||Bill Hayes||282 points|
|2.||Ben Searcy||246 points|
|3.||Ken Sheil||216 points|
|4.||Steve Glenney||197 points|
|5.||John McCarthy||195 points|