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Rebuilt Subarus lighter and faster for 2020 season

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

Victorian Rally Champion, Arron Windus, will finally get his season underway on Saturday when he competes in the Rally of the Bay in NSW.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the sport on hold this year, and with no events in Victoria until at least September, Windus and co-driver Daniel Brick have been forced to head to the NSW coast to get their first motorsport fix of the year.

Windus’ Western Victorian Crane Trucks team will field two Subaru Impreza WRXs in the rally, with his father, Darren, also competing in the first round the NSW Rally Championship.

Arron took the Victorian title in convincing style last year, but isn’t resting on his laurels as he continues his push to make rallying more than just a hobby.

His title-winning Subaru has undergone a full rebuilt since the end of last season, and will be faster and even more competitive in 2020.

“We’ve got a lot better package than we had in 2019,” Arron explained.

“The car now us upgraded suspension, has been on a decent weight loss program, and also has a few more ponies (horsepower) underneath the bonnet.”

His car will feature a gorgeous new blue and yellow livery that pays tribute to the late Possum Bourne’s 1996 Australian Rally Championship winning Subaru WRX.

“The car has come up an absolute treat and is in pristine showroom condition,” he added.

“My uncle (a panel beater) and the Activ Rallysport team really put solid time and effort into the rebuild and the finished product speaks for itself.”

Darren Windus also has a fully rebuilt Subaru at his disposal for the 2020 season.

He’ll drive the same WRX that he used at the end of last season, but it has been upgraded with more horsepower, and a suspension package that brings it to a similar spec as Arron’s Subaru.

The team’s unique ‘father-son’ combinations continue this year, with Daniel Brick’s father, Joe, co-driving for Darren.

Both teams will get their first chance to try out their rebuilt Subarus this Thursday, at a test day near Canberra.

“We’re extremely excited to test these newly built rockets and see first-hand what improvements have been made,” Arron said.

“The field of 90 cars for the Rally of the Bay is just about the strongest seen in Australian rallying for many years, and we’re both looking forward to putting our best foot forward.”

The rally will run out of the tourist town of Batemans Bay on Saturday, with drivers tackling seven competitive stages over a distance of 140km.

Hatton ‘Super Excited’ As Rallying Returns

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

PHOTO: Sydney rally driver JJ Hatton is back in action this weekend.

By Team Release

JJ Hatton is back behind the wheel of his Hyundai i20 rally car this weekend, when the sport resumes after the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been a long time between drinks for the Sydneysider, but this weekend’s Batemans Bay based ‘Rally of the Bay’ will finally see him raising the dust against a top class field.

The rally is the first round of the NSW Rally Championship, but with the Coronavirus break this year, it has also attracted the cream of the crop from the Australian Rally Championship.

Hatton will team with regular co-driver, Nathan Long, for the one-day event, but will also have a chance to test the car on Thursday to get back into the feel of things.

“I haven’t driven the car since a test day in Victorian back in February, so it’s been a long time between drinks,” Hatton said.

“I’m super excited to get in the rally car again as, like everyone, I’ve really missed the sport and have done nothing but work over the last few months.”

His Hyundai i20 is based in Melbourne where it is maintained by the Activ RallySport team, which means Hatton hasn’t even had the chance to sit in the car for many months.

“The test day will be really important to get back into the groove of things and see where the car is at,” he added.

“We’ll be testing with the Toyota factory team and a few others, so it will be a good opportunity to fine-tune a few things and get the car dialed in for the Bay.”

Following testing on Thursday, Hatton and Long will spend Friday driving the rally stages and writing their safety notes for the seven competitive stages that will cover nearly 140 kilometres.

Not only will it be great to have rallying back again, but the Batemans Bay region is also eagerly awaiting the arrival of the rally after a horrid 2020. After devastating bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic has really hurt local tourism.

A full field of 90 cars is expected for the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay, which has implemented strict safety guidelines to meet the ever-changing needs of the pandemic.

Holloway gaining traction and ready for AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

PHOTO: Holloway and Hood at the Alpine Rally

Geoff Holloway and Rick Hood are gaining traction in their bid to take on Australia’s best at the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay.

After a 37-year break from rally driving, Holloway purchased a Hyundai Excel in 2019 in a bid to return to the sport he loves. The bright green pocket rocket had previously served five different owners across three states and one territory before finding a new home with Holloway in the Melbourne suburb of Templestowe.

Rick Hood stepped forward to co-drive for the 2019 season, bringing considerable recent experience to the team.

“We had a pretty bold plan for 2019,” Holloway said. “We competed in, and finished, nine events and at each event we were steadily gaining confidence, speed and reliability, generally finishing mid pack. I reckon the very fast tracks at the Rally of the Heartland in Burra, South Australia were one of the highlights of the season” Holloway recalls.

“There’s always close racing amongst the Excel gang in the stages. So much great camaraderie and support between the teams. It’s the little things make it great, like borrowing a radiator from another team so we could finish the Australian Rally Championship round at the Eureka Rush rally” Holloway added.

The 2019 season ended with the very wet and shortened Alpine Rally in Victoria, where the crew were seeded 106th in a field of 106. Undaunted by the horrendous track conditions, the team slithered through the stages to finish a highly creditable 45th.

During the extended off-season, the Hyundai Excel has had an extensive makeover featuring new paint and some fancy artwork added to the bonnet.

“Kermit, as all green cars are named, is looking pretty spruced up. Bring on the Rally of the Bay,” Holloway joked.

The AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay is set to take place on the 4th of July with a field of over 80 cars set to take to the roads of the forests surrounding Batemans Bay.

PHOTO: Holloway and Hood at the Heartland Rally in South Australia

Behnke Rallying to be back in the Driver’s Seat

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

Following a five-year hiatus from being behind the wheel, the Rally of the Bay on the 4th of July is set to see the return to the driver’s seat for Canberra rally competitor Mike Behnke.

Over the past few months, Mike’s revitalised Honda Civic, which is undergoing a ground up refurbishment, has rapidly taken shape thanks to the help of members of the Light Car Club of Canberra and the Qirx Motorsports team. The group of enthusiastic teammates and supporters has been working late nights, early mornings and weekends to transform the Civic from what was a freshly painted shell just two weeks ago, into a car ready to take to the start line.

Mike is no stranger to club level motorsport. Since stepping back from rally driving in 2015 he has remained active in local car clubs, has dabbled in circuit racing, and continued competing on the dirt from the passenger seat, co-driving for drivers such as Blake Stevens, Meng Chung, Matt Thompson, Anna Ritson and Hannah Stevens.

“I enjoy navigating and contributing in other ways to the sport I love” Mike said. “But I’ve known for some time that it was time to get back into the driver’s seat in my own car. I think many others have felt the same and have been encouraging me to do so,” he continued.

“It’s been incredibly humbling for me to have so many people from the rally community come out in force and help us get back into the forest. To have people actively seeking to help, and willing to take on any tasks, from rebuilding the engine to cleaning and preparing suspension components, is just so appreciated.”

“In my role as President of the LCCC I have witnessed first-hand the hard work and dedication of LCCC members, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Members of the rallying community are always willing to assist each other, not just with their own cars, but to get other people to events, and keeping them going at events.”

Mike also pays tribute to both Denis Stevens, owner of Qirx Motorsports, and his son Blake, both of whom have shared the highs and lows of rallying with Mike over the years.

“Denis and Blake have an unwavering enthusiasm for rallying, and we have achieved so many personal and competitive successes over the years. I look forward to contributing to our list of achievements as a team once again,” Mike added.

The thought of competing again as a driver was already on the radar for Mike when he and his driver Matt Thompson were incredibly fortunate to escape a serious crash at the Alpine Rally of East Gippsland in November last year. The crash destroyed the car, and seriously injured Matt. An awareness of the level of safety gear that saved their lives has been a key aspect of Mike’s preparation of the Civic, and no expense has been spared in the preparation of the car.

“We were very lucky that Matt’s car stood up so well to what was a massive hit” Mike recounts. “Since the crash, it has been widely publicised that we’d been supplied with counterfeit safety harnesses, and mine failed on impact. So I’m very lucky.”

Mike has dealt with the emotional recovery from the incident by reflecting on the lessons learnt, rather than the accident itself.

“It just goes to show that spending money on safety gear is really an investment in your future. Trying to save a few bucks is meaningless if you’re not around to enjoy it. Buying equipment from a reputable supplier is critical as there are some very passable counterfeit equipment doing the rounds,” he said

Ellie Yates is Mike’s partner and co-driver for the upcoming rally, but does Mike believe the car will be ready?

“We still have a fair way to go to get to the start line for the Rally of the Bay, but each day I am more confident that we’ll make it. I may just not be getting much sleep between now and then! I’ve said to Ellie that it should all come together for the event. Hopefully, it’s not just me trying to convince myself!” he laughs.

The AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay is the first ACT/NSW rally event to be held in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a bumper field is set to take on the challenging forest roads around Batemans Bay on the 4th of July.

Ruggles Motorsport start Clubman Assault at AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

The Ruggles Motorsport Team are planning a full assault on the 2020 Techworkz Automotive NSW Clubman Rally Series in their Group 4 specification Triumph TR7 V8.

It’s an all family affair for the team with lead engineer and major sponsor Ben Ruggles heading up the team, Matt Ruggles driving and son Guy Ruggles in the co-drivers seat. They also have their adopted brother, ‘Pommy’ Paul Beaston on the Service Crew.

Matt is no stranger to rallying, having 40 years of driving experience under his belt. He won the inaugural NSW Classic Rally Series in 2006 and is eager to secure another good result in the two-wheel-drive category at the Rally of the Bay.

The Group 4 Triumph would normally be contesting the East Coast Classic Rally Series (ECCRS) and selected national events, but will be dedicated to the Clubman Series this year with two trips to the NSW South Coast region.

“Things are starting to shape up well for a return to rallying after these COVID restrictions,” Matt Ruggles said. “As well as the Clubman Series, we’ll also be doing some other events this year. We’re members of North Shore Sporting Car Club who run a bunch of rally events, so where we can we like to do those,” Matt added.

The team will return south to Narooma for the second round of the Clubman Series in August. This event will officially mark 40 years of rally competition for Matt, who entered his first rally as a driver at the Narooma Booma Rally in a Mitsubishi Colt 1100 SS.

In a return to Matt’s original rally marque roots, the team has also recently purchased a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 3. The EVO sits in the wings waiting for other selected events to give the team a taste of some 4WD fun in 2020.

Normally the Ruggles family would be working as stage commanders for the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay, so this year will be a change of pace for the team.

“We’re really looking forward to competing on the great roads the Bay has to offer and of course, the usual exemplary stewardship of the north Shore Sporting Car Club who run this event. We can’t wait,” Matt Ruggles concluded.

The AMH Automotive Rally of the Bay will be conducted in the Forest surrounding Batemans Bay on the 4th of July.

Thompson and Hind back for the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

Photo: Dave King

Peter Thompson and Ken Hind will be back at the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay for their third year running in their bright yellow historic 1976 Celica.

Thompson moved to the Eurobodalla Shire several years ago and he considers this event his home rally and also one of his favourite motorsport events. But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing out in the Batemans Bay forests.

“Last year we had a bit of a mixed event,” Thompson said. “We were going great guns until about 14 kilometers from the end of the 45km Rutherford Run to Mogo stage. I overcooked a corner and ran off the road, rolling the car. We were both fine and uninjured, but the poor little Celica was a bit worse for wear and that was our rally over,” Thompson added.

Perhaps fittingly, the Rally of the Bay will be the first event for the car and crew following the Celica’s repair.

“I’m really looking forward to getting out there again,” Thompson said. “But this time I‘ll be taking that corner nice and slow,” he joked.

“It’s great that the organisers and local community could get this event happening again and working within the COVID restrictions. Everyone is hankering to go rallying again. It’ll be very competitive out there, especially at the top of the field,” Thompson said.

Thompson has a long history in rallying, with an extensive list of events in his career as a driver. 25 Years ago he entered the 1995 Mobil 1 Round Australia Trial, one of the last great round Australia endurance rallies. He and his good friend Michael Valantine shared the driving and co driving for that event and Thompson is pleased to see Michael making the trek down from the Hunter region to compete at the Rally of the Bay.

“It’ll be 25 years, almost to the day, that Mike and I were sitting next to each other ready to start the Round Australia Trial. We were also in a similar Celica in that event and we did the full 20,000 kilometers of the rally. I really like the old Celicas and I’m looking forward to competing against Mike at the Bay, although I suspect I’ll be in his dust,” Thompson concluded.

The Celica will be back in the Forests for the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay on Saturday the 4th of July.

Photo: Gravel Pics

Young Gun itching for first Event – AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

Photo: Roy Meuronen

16-year-old learner driver Taylor Gill is itching to get behind the wheel of his Subaru WRX for his first rally. The young gun has teamed up with experienced co-driver, Peter Harris, to compete at the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay on July 4th.

It has been a long time coming for Gill, who was originally scheduled to compete at Rally Australia late in 2019, but the devastating summer bushfires saw the cancellation of the event. Whilst disappointing, there were already plans afoot to enter the full season of the MTA NSW Rally Championship in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic would also see those plans dashed, and the Newcastle based driver was left wondering if he would ever get into the forests for a rally. Now that COVID restrictions have eased in NSW, the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay will be the first rally event in Australia since the COVID restrictions and the first round of the MTA NSW Series.

“I just can’t wait to do my first rally,” Gill said. “I’m really excited about competing in Batemans Bay and just want to get out there and do some driving. We’ve already done our reconnaissance of the roads, and they look fantastic,” Gill continued.

“We built the car in time to do Rally Australia, but when that didn’t happen, it was a big let-down after all the preparation. We did do a few rallysprints earlier in the year in our old car and ended up winning the Westlake Automobile Club Rallysprint series, which was pretty good. But, I just can’t wait to get out there and do my first real rally,” Gill added.

The Subaru WRX is a 1999 GC8 and was built at home with help from his Dad, family and friends. The build included a full Bond roll-cage and all the latest safety equipment.

Gill has an exemption to rally on his learners permit, something only a handful of other drivers have been able to achieve. Harris, who is 42 years Gill’s senior, is in the co-drivers seat as part of the requirements of the Motorsport Australia exemption.

“Taylor drives sensibly and whilst he’s young, I feel quite comfortable in the car with him,” Harris said. “I’ve done a few rallysprints with him already and I think he’s got a good chance of doing really well in the MTA NSW Championship. I’m in the car to help him learn and get some experience, but ultimately he’ll probably end up with a much younger co-driver in the future,” Harris added.

The Rally of the Bay is also part of the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship ARC4 and Gill is planning on using this event to score points towards that award.

With almost 90 cars entered, including many Australian Rally Championship teams, Gill’s first rally will see him up against some tough competition and will be the ideal opportunity for him and his team to measure their progress against some of the best drivers and teams in Australia.

Victorians looking to impress at the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

Victorians Adrian Stratford and Kain Manning will be debuting a fully rebuilt Ford Fiesta ST at the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay. The car was purchased late last year and completely stripped down, with many improvements made to make it ready for the 2020 Till Hino Victorian Rally Championship (VRC).

In addition to the VRC, the team were also hoping to enter at least three Australian Rally Championship (ARC) rounds, however the COVID-19 pandemic has meant the team will now reconsider their ARC assault, with only one event likely.

Brendon Reeves assisted the team with car setup and handling, and an extensive testing regime has been undertaken to get the car sorted in time for the start of the 2020 season.

The Ford Fiesta was originally built in Bendigo for Steven MacKenzie to contest the 2015 ARC. MacKenzie had some good solid results in the car, but with limited outings, it was sold to Activ Rallysport who used it as a rallycross car.

“I was keen to buy a car and approached Justin Dowel from Activ Rallysport,” Stratford said. “I was actually interested in buying the Rally School Mazda 2 that Brendon Reeves ran in the ARC. The Mazda needed quite a bit of work to get it back into rallying condition, as it’d also been converted to a rallycross car. But it probably needed more time that I could put in before the 2020 season was meant to start.”

“While I was at looking at the Mazda, I was also showed the Fiesta and I instantly knew it was the one. It had huge moulded flares, big wide stance and an ineligible WRC wing. How could I not buy it,” Stratford added.

The car was hurriedly readied for the first VRC round at the Mitta Mountain Rally, but the COVID-19 pandemic quickly changed the teams plans.

“Me being me, I stripped the car again, put in a new rear end, made more changes in the front end, more engine performance improvements, weight distribution changes and also made changes to the differential,” Stratford said.

With Rally of the Bay fast approaching fast, the team finished the car and got it out for further testing. But the build of the car could not have been possible without the help of the teams sponsors, Exedy Australia, Zestino Tyres Australia, Bendigo Specialist Brake and Clutch, Cooldrive, and JAM Automotive.

Stratford’s rallying started back in 2018 when he attended the first round of the ARC. “It was the first rally I had ever been to and I only went to spectate. Watching the front ARC cars go past us at ridiculous speed, I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” Stratford said.

Stratford immediately bought a Daihatsu Charade and weeks later entered his first event, The George Woods introductory rally. He then competed in the entire Victorian Club Rally Series, managing first in the P1 class, first novice and third 2WD.

In 2019 Stratford stepped up to a full VRC campaign, but suffered a series of engine issues resulting in non-finishes. With little chance of a good outright result in the VRC, the team focussed on class results and managed to win the P2 Class, score fourth in the 2WD category, and finish the VRC in 9th outright.

The highlight of 2019 for the team was the combined VRC and ARC round at the Eureka Rally. The team finished third 2WD and was the fastest 2WD on the final stage.

The team is looking forward to trying out the Fiesta as they head to Batemans Bay next week for the Rally of the Bay on July 4th.

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Rally of the Bay still on track for July 4th

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

The AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay will go ahead with a strong focus on safe COVID-19 policies.

North Shore Sporting Car Club is the the organising club behind the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay, and President Brett Middleton has stated today that the Event will be going ahead, guided by the endorsed policies and protocols of the NSW Government and Motorsport Australia’s ‘Return to Race’ guidelines.

“I want to remind everyone, that the same procedures that have existed for the past weeks are still in place and the rally has full approval to go ahead,” Middleton said.

“The NSW Premier has been wholeheartedly supportive of open (state) borders and we are in full compliance with that to support our interstate teams,” Middleton added.

The unfortunate incidences of COVID-19 outbreaks in some areas of Melbourne will continue to be monitored by the event team and Motorsport Australia.

The AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay, based in Batemans Bay will be the first rally to be held in Australia since the COVID-19 shut-down and summer bushfires, and is set to host a near capacity field of 90 cars ready to rally on Saturday 4th July,

While some areas of Melbourne are seeing increased COVID-19 cases and testing, there is currently no interstate travel ban on people from Victoria.

Under Motor sport Australia’s ‘Return to Race’ protocols, there will be strict social distancing rules imposed on all participants as well as the requirement for all competitors to have temperatures checked before being eligible to compete. There will also be limits on the number of team personnel that can be involved in the rally service park.

“As the organising club, we are very conscious of the role the rally will be playing in bringing much needed revenue into the Batemans Bay district following the twin hits of the Summer Bushfire Crisis and the COVID-19 lock-downs,” Middleton said.

“We will continue to monitor the NSW Government’s official policies and our organising team is ready with a very strong approved COVID-19 policy in place to ensure the utmost safety for everyone,” Middleton added.

Penny and Llewellyn to debut new car at AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

Penny and Llewellyn testing the GC8. PHOTO: Wishart Media

The Jindabyne based Kosciuszko Automotive Rally Team is looking forward to showcasing a new car at the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay.

The Alpine based team of Andrew Penny and Rhys Llewellyn compete at all levels of rallying in Australia and in 2019 they won the ACT Rally Series. They also won the final round of the MTA NSW Rally Championship, an event that the team support through Penny’s business, Kosciuszko Automotive.

In 2018, they also found success at the top level of rallying in Australia, taking out the ARC2 category of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC). For 2020, the team plans on stepping up to do the full ARC.

“We started our rallying adventures 20 years ago” Llewellyn said. “It was in a Daihatsu Charade at the Rally of the Bay in 2000 and we started as car 80, but unfortunately it was a pretty short affair as we broke a drive shaft just 6km into the first stage,” Llewellyn added.

After six years of campaigning a Subaru WRX STi, the car will be set aside for 2020 to make way for a freshly built Colin McRae GC8 tribute car. Debuting the car at the Rally of the Bay will be a fitting start for the car and the team, after 20 years of rallying.

“The Rally of the Bay has definitely been a tough event for us” Penny said. “there’s been many occasions where we haven’t finished it over the years. But it’s also provided us with the biggest highs when we’ve successfully finished the event”

“When we first stepped up from the Charade to a Subaru WRX, we were involved in quite a nasty accident which resulted in the stage being red flagged and both Rhys and I being transported to hospital. Rhys had to stay the night and it was quite scary,” Penny added.

This wasn’t the end of the Teams bad luck at the Rally of the Bay with a catastrophic engine failure resulting in a fire, six years ago. “Unfortunately, the fire couldn’t be contained and the car burnt to the ground,” Llewellyn said. “And whilst this was devastating for the team, it also showed us how much we love the rally community, with lots of support helping us build a new car,” Lewellyn added.

The team are expecting some fierce competition at the 2020 running of the Rally of the Bay with over 85 teams entered from all over Australia. They will be using this event as a shakedown for the first round of the ARC later in the year, but will also be trying hard to score maximum points in the MTA NSW Rally Championship.

The AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay will be held on the 4th of July in the forests surrounding Batemans Bay.