Welcome relief at the COT. Crews, including the tireless service crews on the classic outback trial, enjoyed a quiet day around Broken Hill where 4 stages were contested in the morning. Finish of the day was before Noon at the Silverton Hotel, around 20 km out of Broken Hill, the birthplace of Broken Hill Proprietary Limited. Indeed, it was in the ruins of the original Hotel, just beside the current Hotel where the instrument was signed to wind up the original company and form the new company which evolved in to the biggest mining company in the world. Today was also event photographer Ian Smith’s birthday. Happy birthday Ian.
Three laps in each direction of the Broken Hill speedway from a standing start (a total of 1.0 km) kicked off the day, straight after the presentation to the previous day’s winners, once again Cuthbert and Runnalls. Less than 6 minutes separated 2nd to 7th and although today’s small stages gave little chance to make up time on the opposition, that did not stop many of the crews having “a red hot go”, including the event leaders Andrew and David Travis in their Datsun 1600 who have just over a 25 minute lead on 2012 winner Matt Swan and Paul Franklin. For the assembled service crews this was just about the first chance in more than 1500 km of rallying to see their team and the other crews in action. Travis did not disappoint, letting his well prepared Datsun have its head and drifting close to the wall on turn 4. Cuthbert too showed the crowd that he is not frightened to sink the boot in, leaving huge rooster tails off the start and holding the 200B on opposite lock all the way around the turns. He was quickest by 3 seconds from leader Travis. Batten/Snooks who had moved in to third place after day 4 were equal with the flying Travis, despite being wary of not throwing away their event in this short day and by the stop at lunch was had taken 12 seconds out of the gap to second but lost 43 seconds to Travis. Dunkerton/Collits (Datsun 1600) had a puncture on the left rear, robbing us of the chance to witness the 5 times Australian champion’s form.
A short transport up to the next stage, 8 km “Limetsone” and again, Cuthbert/Runnalls were quickest, the only crew to break under 6 minutes. The 200B crew are definitely in “Renmark or bust” mode. Travis was second on stage and Matt Lee/Cathy Elliott were just 1 second behind, though down in 20th place after missing a stage on day 3. Same story for the last stage of the day, 7 km “Silverton” and the day’s competition which finished with a short transport stage up to the Silverton Hotel where the bright red Classic Outback Trial finish arch was waiting for them. Cuthbert quickest from Travis and Lee 1 second behind.
Drivers, co-drivers and service crews were able to relax and take in the historic town of Silverton which was established 1886, before a rich silver and zinc ore body was discovered at Broken Hill. Its population has shrunk from over 3,000 in 1890’s to around 50 today although quite a few artists live around the town and it remains a popular spot for tourists who are passing though, given its links with BHP.
On day 6 and 7, this event will be one to lose. Every category leader has enough of a lead to allow them to drive with some caution over the ensuing 600 km. For those behind, if they are to take a category or outright win, they will have to press on and position themselves to take advantage of any trouble those in the front may suffer.
It’s a different story for the podium though. While Travis/Travis have enough of a lead that they will not be caught by faster driving, places 2 and 3 are within the grasp of anybody from 2nd to 6th where less than five minutes separates them. Take it too easy and the field will run over the top. Push too hard and throw it all away. This event is the ultimate test in the outback. It’s tough and it’s long, very long.
By the end of day 6 the crews will have traveled south to Renmark on the mighty Murray river and make preparations for the final day’s 160 km. The finish on Saturday is at Angove Family Winery where the champagne will the prettiest sight these weary crews will have seen since last Sunday.
Quote of the day: “These days it’s not so hard to drive around Australia. The roads are better and everybody has a four wheel drive. The COT gives the chance for everybody to experience an outback event, but only over 1 week.” – Bob Watson, 1970 Australian Rally Champion.
Leaders in to Broken Hill are:
Category 1: Historic Rally Cars: Ashton/Nixon (Galant)
Category 2: Classic Cars to 1982: Pickering/Boddy (Datsun 240Z)
Category 3: Club Cars (to 1989): Batten/Snooks (Datsun 1600)
Category 3A Early PRC (to 1986): Travis/Travis (Datsun 1600)
Category 3B: Modern PRC (1987-1988): Swan/Franklin (Holden Commodore VL)
Outright: 1-Travis/Travis (Datsun 1600), 2- Swan/Franklin (Holden Commodore VL), 3 – Batten/Snooks (Datsun 1600)
Team results after 5 days:
2. Mitsubishi Magic (total of 1 minute behind leader)
3. Globetrotters (total of 2 minutes behind leader)
– Alan Baker
Photos Credits: Ian Smith.