Steve Ashton is one of the small group who have competed in all four Classic Outback Trials and has twice been runner up. Lets find out what his game plan for COT 2016 is…
What car will you be running in the 2016 COT? What is special; what is its history; where is it at?
The car will be the same one we have used in every event including the Red Centre to the Gold Coast, which is a 1972 Mitsubishi Galant, prepared to the H81 regulations.
The only thing special about it is that it represents us rejoining competition, after we had sold our Evo 7 and we thought we had retired – then we got talked into building a Galant by Dinta to do the Red Centre, and we still have it, and have done every COT since I think. The first time I drove it was in the Alpine in maybe 2007, and that was when I realised I had been wasting my time driving Datsun 1600,s for so many years – the first time we tackled an inside hairpin I aimed two feet inside the apex in the normal Datsun technique and nearly drove down the gully because the Galant actually goes where you steer it!
The car is pretty much ready to go at the moment. It has been resprayed and had the 7 years of rally rash fixed up, and has a freshened up motor and suspension.
Who will be in your team? Who is your co-driver, team manager or service crew? What’s your history as a team?
My co-driver will be Ro Nixon, my regular co-driver and spouse. We are hopeful that we will have our rally legends John Gray and Peter Ryan as our service crew again. John and Peter can tell so many stories between them that it would take a whole COT to hear them all. Both used to work for Colin Bond when the BDA Escorts were running, John has been to several Paris Dakars with Bruce Garland, Peter was the GM at DJR for a while, and both have done the 1979 Round Australia with Bondy’s Cortinas, and then again with us in 1995. They were also part of our team when we won the VRC Group N championship in 2005.
If you’ve competed in the COT before, what do you like about the event – what has bought you back?
We’ve always liked long distance events, because of the need for strategy, really good preparation, and the concentration and adaptability required to get through. We probably were turned on to these events by Ross Runnalls’ George Derrick trials and then later the Old BP’s. I also did several Australian Safaris with Ralliart. The big learner for us was doing the London Sydney Marathon in 1993, and then the Round Australia Trial in 1995. I think we were hooked after that. Long events also give a chance to cars which are not the most powerful or fastest cars in the field, which is certainly the case with the Galant.
What are your expecting from the 2016 COT; what are you looking forward to?
I have some great memories of the roads in the MacDonnell Ranges from the 1985 Wynns Safari, so Im hoping we get a few of those.
Have you been to Alice Springs before? What are you expecting or looking forward to seeing?
Yes several times. Both the Red Centre to the Gold Coast and the 1988 Australian Safari started there, so it’s a bit familiar.
Are you planning a bit of a Red Centre holiday as part of your rally? Will your partner, family or friends be joining you?
Not really – but my partner will certainly be there as my co-driver
Who are your sponsors or supporters?
We enjoy great support from David Officer with advice and car preparation, and from Powerplay and MCA Suspension, although not as sponsors but trusted suppliers and advisors.
What is/was your favourite rally car?
Our Group N Galant VR4 – a great car, so stable and reliable, and very quick
What is your most memorable rallying moment?
It would have to be getting to the end of Day 1 in the 1982 Alpine, when we were a Grade 3 crew with no great expectations. We had quite a lot of things go wrong with the car during the day and the night stages, but managed to not lose too much time. When we got to the end of the night division people were telling us we were third outright, but we wouldn’t believe them. It turned out to be true, and that’s how we finished at the end of the Sunday.
What will you be doing to get ready for the 2016 COT?
Get fitter, and do a meticulous car preparation and service crew organisation.
Where are you, and what are you doing as you answer these questions?
Somewhat unfortunately I’m at home enduring chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma, most likely acquired from cutting and grinding brake pads. Hopefully this will work well enough to enable us to enter the COT in good health and spirits.
And we hope so too Steve – our thoughts are with you and we hope the treatment goes well. Look forward to having you out with us on COT 2016 in Alice Springs.