Day one of the Lasseters Classic Outback Trial felt a bit like history repeating itself, with the 2016 winners Andrew and David Travis taking the honours in their Nissan Gazelle.
After setting the fastest time in the previous day’s prologue at the Finke racing facility, the pair got off to a quick start winning the opening 40km Owen Springs East stage, however there were several challengers queuing up behind to keep the pressure on. The Datsun Stanza of Trevor Stilling/Lisa Dunkerton surprised many to get within two seconds of the champions with Ian Reddiex/Mike Mitchell a further second adrift in third despite being down on power due to a lost cam unit.
Behind them, crews reported that the sandy conditions made navigating the course a real challenge with several of them having an off-road excursion or getting caught up in the soft sand. Jorge Perez Companc (Escort) got stuck for a brief moment as he and co-driver Jose Volta got used to the sand. Michael Ward (Corolla) and the Pipe King Escort of John Hills were less successful and got bogged.
An incident on the second stage involving the cars of Stilling and Richard Bennett/Matthew James-Wallace (Mustang) significantly halted the event and would see them take no further part in the rally.
When the rally resumed, there was plenty for the locals to cheer about when Phil Kerr (Datsun) topped the time sheets in stage three at the Alice Springs Off Road Club. He and co-driver Jenny Cole took top spot again on the final stage to finish the day in second place and only 20 seconds in arrears of the Travis’. Ian Reddiex and Mike Mitchell (Datsun) recovered from their earlier camshaft timing issue to end day one in a strong third position and be less than a minute behind the leaders.
Reigning Australian 2WD Champions Adam Kaplan and Aleisha Penny had an up and down day in the ‘Back to the Future’ looking RX7. The duo started the day with a couple of excursions off road and some overheating before getting bogged on SS3 and needing to be recovered by Sweep, who also got bogged in the process. However, their fortune changed with an impressive stage win on SS4 as they charged from the back of the field and ended the day’s running with a solid sixth on SS5.
In modern competition, defending champions Peter Neal and Craig Whyburn took advantage of the 4WD grip from their Subaru Impreza WRX to take a clean sweep across all four stages and head into day two with a lead of almost two minutes. Chris and Blake McCormack displayed a good pace in the only front wheel drive car in the field and sit in second place with the Subaru of Peter Sweeney/Dan Murphy in third.
Jamie and Michelle Lawson (Commodore) had great pace in SS1 featuring in the top 10 times but suffered a setback when they discovered a hole in the extractor, melting some of the wires which ended their day prematurely.