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Rally of the Bay 2020

Cooper Tyres join High Country Motorsports

By Rally, Rally of the Bay 2020

The team at High Country Motorsports are busy preparing for there much anticipated return to motorsport next month at the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay.

With the last event for the team being well over 9 months ago, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes.

High Country Motorsports is excited to announce they will be partnering with Cooper motorsport tyres to launch the brand new Cooper Discoverer DG1 gravel rally tyre in Australia. They will be making the most of a pre-event test day being run in the Kowen forest just outside of Canberra in the week leading up to the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay.

Due to COVID-19 this will be the team’s first chance to become familiar with the brand new Cooper Discoverer DG1 gravel rally tyres and reacquaint themselves in the car. The team are excited to bring another tyre brand into the Australian market and with the well regarded reputation of Cooper tyres it’s sure to give them the confidence they need on the roads around Batemans Bay.

High Country Motorsports is made up of Driver Chris Higgs and co-driver Daymon Nicoli.

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.

Stilling ready for the AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

Stilling at the Alpine Rally 2019. PHOTO: Raine O’Keeffe

After a successful 2019 debut season, Chris Stilling is eager for the restart of the 2020 rally season with the first event at Batemans Bay on 4 July.

Stilling emerged on the rally scene late in 2019 with his first event as a rally driver at the Narooma rally in which he won the event’s ACT novice and NSW clubman awards. He went on to win a number of awards at the Monaro Stages Rally, before finishing the year as the winner of the 2019 NSW Development 2WD class series, ACT Novice Series and finished second outright in the NSW Development series as well as second outright ACT Clubman series.

Stilling, when asked what his aim was for the 2020 AMH Rally of the Bay, said he was out to gain experience and to enjoy the event. “I’m excited just to be part of the event especially as it’s the first rally back for 2020’, Stilling said.

The event is also shaping up to be one of the best on the 2020 calendar with 2019 Australian Rally Champion and runner-up, Harry and Lewis Bates also competing amongst a talented and diverse 90 car field.

Stilling aims to compete in as many ACT and NSW events as possible during 2020 to further develop his skills as a rally driver. While concentrating at the Rally of the Bay for the NSW and ACT Clubman series he has not ruled out competing in other series events during the year. At only 22 years of age Chris Stilling is also eligible for the Junior Australian Rally Championship events staged during 2020.

Preparation is a key factor for any motorsport team and Stilling attributes Endurance Automotive, Waterhouse Performance and Manning Automotive as instrumental in preparing his Nissan Stanza for the 2020 rally season.

“I really want to thank Shane from Endurance, Leigh from Manning Automotive and Jamie from Waterhouse Performance for all their advice, support and assistance,” Stilling said. “After the differential broke on the Stanza at the 2019 Alpine Rally, and with the motor needing a rebuild, I had a lot of preparation to do on the car to get it back up to scratch for the 2020 season’ .

Raine O’Keeffe from Triple UFM Shoalhaven ‘Listen to the Raine’ motoring program, and Simply Music Management, has also agreed to continue her sponsorship of Stilling.

“I have reviewed our arrangements and look forward to maintaining our support as we have a young and talented rally driver in Chris” Raine said. “With the delay in the 2020 season due to COVID-19, we look forward to continuing our partnership into 2021,” Raine added.

Joining Chris Stilling in the codriver seat at the Rally of the Bay is Logan Waterhouse, son of Rae Waterhouse. Rae Waterhouse navigated for Stilling in the 2019 season taking out the 2019 NSW Development Series Co-Driver award. Logan Waterhouse, navigated for Chris Stilling’s father, Trevor Stilling, at the 2019 Narooma Rally.

Chris Stilling is following in his fathers’ footsteps, Trevor Stilling. “Chris is very measured in his approach, taking the time to learn from more experienced drivers and continuously developing his skills” said Trevor Stilling, former Australian rally classic champion.

National Title starts at AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay

By News, Rally of the Bay 2020

NSW based competitors who aspire for an Australian Rally Championship (ARC) award, can now register and score points towards the ARC4 award by competing at the Batemans Bay based, AMH Automotive Group Rally of the Bay event.

Motorsport Australia has updated the Sporting and Technical Regulations for the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship and the ARC4 award includes the Rally of the Bay.

The ARC4 award is open to competitors who are not supported by a manufacturer and are not competing in an AP4 or R5 rally car. The structure of the award means that any NSW team entered in the Rally of the Bay and who then goes on to compete in their home state ARC round and one other ARC event can win the award.

“This is a great opportunity for anyone who’s entered in our Rally to score some points in the national competition”, said Nigel Bland, Rally of the Bay Event Director. “The Australian Rally Championship ARC4 category is a great initiative and we’re really fortunate to be one of the State Rounds nominated for points towards the award.”

“There are plenty of teams entered in our event that will likely do a few ARC rounds, like the National Capital Rally and the possible NSW North Coast ARC round, so there’s no doubt they should consider this opportunity, as they could easily find themselves winning ARC4,” Bland added.

There is no fee to register for the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship, but teams considering the ARC4 award must register with the ARC Managers and nominate the events they wish to compete in. Full details of the conditions, including contact information for the ARC Managers can be found in the Sporting and Technical Regulations.