Drivers and cars have been put to the test at the Snake Racing Coffs Coast Rally.
With a number of leading drivers forced out due to crashes and mechanical problems, the pace of the rally took its toll.
Honda’s Eli Evans and North Coast privateer Michael Boaden won the two-wheel drive and four wheel drive championships respectively at the end of today’s heat with both provisionally securing their first Australian Championships with enough points to take the titles with a heat and one round remaining.
Mixed with the elation of victory for the winners was the disappointment of disaster for the drivers who failed to make the finish of the heat.
South Australian Jack Monkhouse and co-driver Anthony McLoughlin praised the mandatory safety equipment in their Nissan S15 after escaping unharmed from a 160km/h end over end roll over.
Monkhouse’s Nissan Silvia was destroyed on the third stage after he ‘ran out of road’ while pushing hard in sixth gear with worn tyres.
Monkhouse said it was the biggest crash of his rally career sliding into a bank in sixth gear with the car careering down the hill rolling at least three times before coming to rest on its wheels.
Monkhouse wasn’t the only driver to come to grief on the tricky Coffs stages which have been smooth and fast following a mid week downpour that helped compact the forestry trails.
Warm conditions today and the mix of tight technical and fast open stages tested the cars with many of the drivers reporting brake issues on the fast longer stages.
Victorian Eli Evans had a clear run over the day’s eight stages in his factory Honda Jazz G2 to take the Bosch Two Wheel Drive Australian Rally Championship heat and title win ahead of the V8 Holden Commodore Ute of Matt Amos by a massive four minutes 15.4 seconds.
Rallyschool Australian Junior Challenge competitor Adam Casmiri was second in his Honda Civic throughout the morning’s stages, but problems on stage five saw him drop down the order to as sixth before fighting back to third just 8.4 seconds behind Amos.
Mark Pedder finished fourth in the second factory backed Honda Jazz, five minutes 22.7 seconds behind his team mate Evans, after losing valuable time with a puncture on stage three.
Simon Evans spent most of the morning in service in his Rallyschool Mazda2 G2, complaining of a lack of power at the end of the first stage. A melted catalytic converter proved to be the problem and the four time Australian champion re-joined the event for the afternoon’s remaining four stages winning two of them and taking second fastest on the other two.
Eli Evans admits conditions were challenging all day.
“This event is hard on the cars and mentally challenging too,” said Evans.
“The brakes were really spongy towards the end of stages one, three, five and seven but we’ve had a pretty good run today.
“Its great to be able to wrap up the two wheel drive championship, and now we can have some fun and hopefully have a good battle with Simon in tomorrow’s heat and at the final round in Victoria next month.”
Local North Coast frontrunner in the Bosch Four Wheel Drive Championship, Michael Boaden maintained his recent form and secured the four wheel drive championship in his Mitsubishi Evo IX.
Boaden from Wauchope, won the heat by 1min 15.7 from the Mitsubishi Evo VII of John Mitchell with Mick Patton in the first of the Subaru WRX STIs in third 2min 20.5 seconds behind.
Patton battled with the Subaru WRX of Matt Van Tuinen all day and after trailing him heading into the final stage managed to squeeze past him into third by a mere 3.2 seconds.
Western Australian hotshot Nic Box retired after spinning and sliding off the road into the trees on stage two. Box is hopeful he and the All Stars Garage team will be able to repair the Mitsubishi Evo IX overnight and re join the event tomorrow.
Boaden feels the Snake Racing Coffs Coast Rally has proven that anything can happen.
“A lot of guys had issues out there,” Boaden said.
“We had a healthy lead by mid-way through the day so we were able to take it a little bit easy and make sure we got through it and secured the Championship," he added.
Cody Crocker has secured the Australian Side x Side Rally Challenge despite being pipped by fellow Polaris driver Ian Hughes on the final stage by 37.1 seconds with Wayne Murphy in third - 2mins 30 secs off the leader.
Sydney’s Adam Casmiri is in the prime seat to secure the Rallyschool Australian two wheel drive Junior Challenge tomorrow, while in the four wheel drives Victorian Dane Berry held off SA’s James Rodda by two minutes 18.5 seconds heading into the final six stages tomorrow.
BOSCH TWO WHEEL DRIVE RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS AFTER HEAT ONE
- Eli Evans/Glen Weston, Honda Jazz, 1h 13m 6.9sec
- Matt Amos/ Tom Ryan, Holden Commodore, 1h 17m 22.3sec
- Mark Pedder/ Claire Ryan, Honda Jazz, 1h 18m 29.6sec
BOSCH FOUR WHEEL DRIVE RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS AFTER HEAT ONE
- Michael Boaden/ Helen Cheers, Mitsubishi Evo IX, 1h 11m 4.5sec
- John Mitchell / Jo Cadman, Mitsubishi Evo VII, 1h 12m 15.7sec
- Mick Patton/ Bernie Webb, Subaru WRX STI, 1h 13m 25.0sec