John Cooper and his mighty “XD” Falcon has been a bit of a regular part of Classic Outback Trials – and he’s back for COT2016. Let’s hear what he and the team have planned…
What car will you be running in the 2016 COT? What is special; what is its history; where is it at?
We will be campaigning the big Ford Falcon again for COT ’16. It’s special because it’s got me to the finish of every rally I’ve entered in it, doesn’t complain about the harsh punishment we put it through, it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s got plenty of meat around it if I was to hit anything, it’s fun to drive and we love it.
The “XD” was built by others and completed the 1995 Around Australia Rally and then was laid up in a shed for 12 years until I bought it in preparation for the 2008 Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial, thinking that it had most of the hard work done. That was a mistake! After a complete strip down and rebuild (including the roll cage as the existing one turned out to be only water pipe) it competed in my first endurance rally with my wife Wendy navigating in her first ever event. We finished every stage of the Red Centre to Gold Coast Rally, finished 24th, not bad seeing only 27 cars finished out of the 74 that started. A credible 15th in the 2009 COT with Wendy and the “XD” followed up with a 13th in the 2014 COT with Ross Warner, who also did out first BP Rally in it in 2012. It has also done a lot of our Classic Rally Club rallies over the years.
Who will be in your team? Who is your co-driver, team manager or service crew? What’s your history as a team?
Our team will not change from 2014. Ross Warner will be sitting beside me again, he’s a great mate and we work together as a team exceptionally well as well as have a lot of fun. Our wives Wendy and Kim will again be along, providing the meal breaks, company and managing the after rally activities. Fellow Classic Rally Club members Vince Harlor and his wife Kay will again be at every service stop with our trailer of tools, petrol, tyres and spares keeping us going, they are great people and do a great job. Between us all, we seem to be able to fix things and stay in the rally, keep the car and ourselves on the track.
If you’ve competed in the COT before, what do you like about the event – what has bought you back?
Competing in and finishing a COT event is to me the most challenging event I do. I love driving on the dirt, the gravel roads, the changing terrains, the long stages; it’s an endurance event, not only for the week it’s on but managing yourself, the team and the car in the lead up preparation, getting there and getting everything and everyone safely home. I unfortunately missed out on all the early long distance events of the Round Australia stuff and this to me is the closest I can get to that. What has brought me back again? I guess it’s a bit of everything, the opportunity to compete in a long distance rally, to test yourself and car against the Australian elements, the knowing that the event is superbly organised, the catch up and comradery with all the people involved, from all over Australia and now including the world, the people are always welcoming, helpful and humble, no matter what their past achievements may be, but most of all Ross and my number one outlook is to enjoy it and have the best fun you can have.
What are your expecting from the 2016 COT; what are you looking forward to?
After doing the Red Centre and a few COTs we would expect nothing less than to have one hell of a great time once again. We are all looking forward to the challenge that the event brings to us.
Have you been to Alice Springs before? What are you expecting or looking forward to seeing?
When we did the Red Centre in 2008 was the last time we were in Alice, and we are certainly looking forward to getting back out to the Centre again.
Are you planning a bit of a Red Centre holiday as part of your rally? Will your partner, family or friends be joining you?
At this stage we haven’t planned any extra stays but that’s not to say we won’t. It’s such a unique place it deserves to be seen a little more in detail than shooting past the great scenery at over 140 or so clicks.
Who are your sponsors or supporters?
Both Ross and I own our own businesses and self-fund most things through that – we don’t have any other sponsors but are always open to any approach from companies. I think Red Bull might turn us down, but Ross and I are known to demolish quite a few Magnum ice-creams whilst competing, as well as bottles of Coke, so if there is anyone out there that wants to throw some dollars our way we would be happy to put some Streets or Peters Ice-creams stickers on the car, or maybe Pepsi Max / Coke-a-cola, or even a paracetamol drug company.
But seriously, my company is Westco Building Consultants Pty Ltd in Penrith, Sydney and Ross’ is Engineered Environments in Padstow, Sydney. I would also like to mention and thank Geoff Mills of Precision Auto Electrics in Nowra for services above and beyond for rally car preparations over many years and Gary Johnson of Fairy Meadow for his outstanding mechanical works and car preparation also.
What is/was your favourite rally car?
Favourite rally car – well the “XD” would get upset if I didn’t say she was. I run my MK1 Escort in Club rallies and my Mini occasionally. My favourite would be the one I’m driving at the time. But a quick, light, small MK2 Escort wouldn’t be bad either, to do special stage rallies as the “XD” sometimes is a bit big.
What is your most memorable rallying moment?
How do you narrow it down to one most memorable rally moment? Maybe finishing the Red Centre as first time novices, big big effort and great family achievement with wife Wendy navigating, a massive contribution from her, and daughter Melanie and son-in-law Jason as service crew, many dramas but a well-earned finish. Or, with Ross for us to take the “XD” to Victoria for the 2013 BP Rally, no service, just us, and finish in 13th position on our first try at this super tough navigation event is certainly memorable (bring on another BP).
What will you be doing to get ready for the 2016 COT?
In preparation to get ready I have been watching the COT Facebook site where it says 12 months to go, so we started thinking we better get a move on and next minute you post 11 months to go! Can’t wait until 9 months to go, that should be a great photo.
The “XD” has had a new windscreen, roof vents (both went missing whilst airborne over a jump in the last COT), new exhaust system, is about to go to Gary Johnson’s for chassis realignment, chassis strengthening again, engine freshen up, new suspension and a few other incidentals. After Christmas Ross and I will attempt to make the car into a light weight machine, we may give up our Magnums and Coke and again try to drop 10kgs each – that should help shouldn’t it Ross? We also thought of going to the gym and getting fit, but we changed our mind.
Where are you, and what are you doing as you answer these questions?
Where am I? I am at work in my office at my desk where I am supposed to be working, but I am the boss so I get away with it. As I am a lot better driving a car than a computer my hand written notes will now be typed up by the office staff and sent off. See you all at Alice next June.
Thanks for such a great response John! Your answers show how much fun you, Ross and the team get from your rallying. Chookas for 2016 and see you in Alice! (BTW – “XD” is in quotes because our website presents it as XD if i don’t! Although, a grin kinda works with you blokes… )