With only two “Did Not Finishes” on the third day of the 2022 Classic Outback Trial, crews are coming to grips with the change in terrain from the dusty outback forests of Far-Western New South Wales to the hilly and more traditional rally country towards the east, near Orange.
Today’s two DNFs were the Triumph Stag V8 of Tony Jordan and Richard Davidson and the Holden Commodore VL of previous Classic Outback Trial winner, Matt Swan and Paul Franklin.
The Triumph and its crew said goodbye to the seven day special stage rally following suffering deranged bodywork after running off the road on a mountain special stage, while the Commodore ran off the road into a deep ditch on the Amaroo Way stage.
Swan damaged the front suspension which necessitated tow out of the ditch and some roadside mechanical work to get the car back to a drivable condition, however the car was too damaged to continue today. The intrepid crew will however rejoin the Classic Outback Trial again on Day 4 (Wednesday).
At the front of the field a great battle is brewing between the Allcomer Competition Nissan Navara Dakar spec truck of Tony Quinn and the Classic Competition Nissan Gazelle of the Bathurst based father and son team of David and Andrew Travis.
Only a scant one minute and 49 seconds separates these two.
In the Classic Competition, South Australians Darkie Barr-Smith and Rob Hunt in a Ford Capri Perana are a whopping seven and a half minutes behind Travis in second place. Barr Smith’s V8 engined Capri suffered electrical problems on the second day and they were not confident their diagnosis of the fault was correct. Today’s result proved they made all the right parts were replaced and the Capri was again back on full song.
Victorian Neil Schey, with Scott Middleton calling the corners, has steadily worked his way up the field and his Ford Escort RS 18800 currently sits in third place.
Schey is having a torrid daily battle with the similar Escort RS 1800 of New South Wales driver David Hills and Ben Richards. The pair have been starting stages behind one another and the sound of the two BDG engine Escorts through the forests is music to the ears of rally enthusiasts. Only one minute and 10 seconds separate the two.
David Travis again showed his superiority by taking four of the day’s five stages, only being beaten on the very first stage today by New South Wales Datsun Stanza driver Michael Valantine by 27 seconds and by Barr-Smith’s Capri by just five seconds.
Pics from the Mt Topp stage today. Clockwise from L, Neil Schey/Scott Middleton, Michael Arundel/Simon Healey, Matt Swan/Paul Franklin.
The second and following stages of the day saw normality return and the Travis’ steamroller just continued on, knocking off the next four stages by up to 45 seconds to the next quickest driver.
At the end of the day, Travis had extended the Classic section lead by another two minutes over Barr-Smith during the 90 kilometers of today’s Special Stages.
Mark Pickering and David Boddy (Datsun 260Z) are sitting in fifth after Tuesday, followed by Pat and Brad Coles (Mercedes Benz 280 SL Pagoda), Joel Wald and Cathy Elliott (Datsun Stanza) and Michael Ward and Pete Hellwig (Toyota Corolla).
The big V8 Falcon of Shane Attwell and David Moir is in ninth position, while Murray Rogers and Peter Ellis from Victoria round out the top ten places in their purple Holden Commodore.
Tomorrow, day 4 of the Classic Outback Trial, will see another 5 special stages conducted over 94 kilometers of predominately pine plantation forests between Orange and Carcoar, before returning to Orange in the afternoon.
Another four days of tough and tight competition will be experienced by the 38 remaining crews before the Classic Outback Trial finishes in Bathurst on Saturday 2 April.
In a surprise move on the day 1 and 2 leaders, the Datsun 240Z of David and Steven Grainer stole the lead in the Classic Outback Trial Regularity Competition from Bill and Kathy Gill today.
Careful planning and accurate driver control saw the Datsun crew pull out a massive 32 points from the Gills lead on the first regularity section of the day and another 21 points on section 3, to lead by a narrow margin of 2 points heading into Day 4.
The two will be in a close battle for the remaining four days.
Paul and Mariella Kirkham in their Datsun 1600 had a steady day holding station in third place to the other 8 crews, however the EV Sunbeam Alpine of Michael and Anne Wilkinson dropped a ton of points after experiencing issues with the electronic control system.
The Classic Outback Trail continues tomorrow with crews leaving the Orange Showground at 0845 hrs (Regularity) and 0930 hrs for the Stage Rally cars.
Banner: COT22 Classic Competition leaders Andrew and David Travis from Bathurst, on Day 3.