Hot contests in heat wave conditions Conditions were hot and dusty with temperatures reaching in excess of 40 degrees for the Darling 200 held on Saturday, the final round in the Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship for 2WD and Clubman Cup competitors. Attracting 37 teams across the categories, the podium places included a son-father team, a father-daughter team and a rookie.
Competitors had to tackle 90 kilometres of competitive stages and had the additional challenge of keeping themselves and their cars cool. Taking place around Jarrahdale, eight-stages traversed over 195 kilometres.
Leading into the Darling 200 there was just a point separating second, third, fourth places in the 2WD Championship standings and the competition was set to be as hot as the heat wave sweeping the region.
Mark Travers and co-driver Lee Tierney entered the 2WD category with comfortable 30-point lead in the LRT Custom Engineering Toyota AE86, but alternator issues in SS2 meant cruising to the finish was not possible.
“The first half of the rally was a bit stressful. We had to work hard to keep the car running between stages – I worked up a bit of a sweat,” Travers said.
“We managed to keep patching it up and the crew fixed the alternator during the service – we’re so lucky to have such a good crew. Once that was done, the car ran really well and we were able to just relax and enjoy ourselves.
“Having Lee Tierney next to me with his wealth of experience is what got us through in the end I think. He’s taught me a few things and it’s increased my confidence. We had fun in the car once the alternator was sorted,” the mechanical fitter said.
In their rookie season driver Kody Reynolds and co-driver Anthony Staltari in a 1994 Subaru Imprezza had an impressive rally stepping onto second place on the podium, 12:48.0 minutes behind Travers.
Reynolds, a 17-years-old apprentice mechanic living in Busselton, said it was a great feeling to achieve his best outright result to date.
“I’m stoked – what a good way to finish season. The car ran really well. I overshot a few corners, mostly because I wasn’t concentrating hard enough in the heat. Anthony coached me through it, I backed off a bit and it was all good,” Reynolds said.
The youngest driver in the Darling 200, Reynolds said that he started the season on his L-plates license and finished on his red P-plates.
Third place was taken by rally veteran Andy Van Kann and Madelin Kirkhouse in the Platinum Automotive Toyota TE26, just 2:51 minutes behind Reynolds.
In the 2WD Challenge, a category that restricts recce and pace notes, Gregory Flood and his daughter Deeann Flood finished victors in their Mitsubishi Lancer.
Self-employed electrician Flood said he kept cool by staying hydrated and using icepacks behind his neck and on his chest between stages.
“We had a great rally. The only issue I had was on the sixth stage where I slid wide on a corner and clipped the edge of a stump that left a slight dent on left hand side of car and the side mirror was pushed back and it smashed the passenger window,” Flood said.
“The car filled with dust, which wasn’t great but it was okay. The dust made Deeann sneeze a few times, which almost deafened me through the intercom!”
The battle was on between Julian Wright with co-driver Ian De Boer, and Dene Courtis and co-driver Robert King over the eight stages of the Darling 200. Both duos set impressive stage times over the rally.
Julian Wright in a Datsun 1200 coupe didn’t let a broken arm sustained in SS2 stop him from clocking two stage wins in SS4 and SS8, second fastest times on SS5 and SS7, third fastest on SS2 and SS3, and fourth fastest on SS1 and SS6. The reward was an outright first place.
Wright hit a rut on the second stage that did some damage.
“The organisers had warned us about the ruts, and I hit one hard that wrenched the steering wheel from my hand and I didn’t know it at the time, but it broke my wrist. It hurt a little but I kept going and it wasn’t until the next day that my wife convinced me to go hospital, and yep, I’ve broken my left hand wrist, my gear-changing wrist,” Wright admitted.
“The Darling 200 was definitely a challenging event. We had a great battle with Dene Courtis, who had been getting faster and faster all day. At service, he was 18.5 seconds in front, and then going into the last stage, he was 26.5 seconds in front us.
“The last stage was fast and flowing and that suits my front wheel drive car. We were fastest by 29 seconds on the last stage, which is what won us the rally,” the 45-year-old network engineer said.
At the end of the event merely 2.5 second behind Wright in second place was Dene Courtis and Robert King in their Askwith Safe Company Toyota Corolla FX GT. Despite five stage wins in SS1, SS2, SS3, SS5 and SS7, second fastest on SS4 and SS6, and third fasted on SS8, it just wasn’t enough to finish first.
Courtis said he backed off a little too much in the last few stages.
“My hands cramped up, had to use my fist to change gear – it was just so hot, an average 53 degrees inside car, plus fire proof suits, balaclava and the rest. I did drink a lot of water and had electrolytes, but probably needed more salt in take,” Courtis said.
“It was certainly a hot and dusty event, but quite enjoyable and we had a laugh, and got a lot of entertainment battling Julian (Wright). Thanks to Wendy Walker and the Light Car Club for putting on the event and withstanding the heat.”
Third on the podium went to Kiel Douglas and Justin Smith in a Holden Commodore.
The trend of stepping up on the podium after each rally came to an abrupt end for Jason Lowther and his co-driver and father Paul Lowther. In their first full season rallying together in the LRT Custom Engineering Toyota Corolla, the pair suffered issues on SS2, which fortunately will have no impact of their status of champions-elect.
Entering the Darling 200 with a 62-point championship lead, Jason Lowther had hoped for stress free weekend.
“I did say that that the car was in great shape and that I hoped the driver was too – must’ve jinxed myself,” Lowther said.
“I tried to avoid a bank on an inside corner on the second stage but ended up getting stuck on the edge of the road and the left wheel got caught – we were effectively bogged. The only thing that was damaged was my pride,” Lowther remarked.
“Dad dug the car out while I slowed down the traffic – we lost about 15 minutes as a result.
“After that mishap, I kind of threw caution to the wind and we were able to clock up some decent stage times against some really fierce competitors.”
The son-father team finished the Darling 200 in ninth place.
The Darling 200 concludes the season for Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship for 2WD and Clubman Cup.
For more information, please visit the RallyWA website.