The Lazer Rally of the Bay has ended in thrilling circumstances with a dead heat declared for the top step of the Podium. The Mitsubishi Lancer team of Clayton Hoy and John Allen shared the event win with the Shamrock Motorsport team of Richie Dalton and Mac Kierans.
The roads in the Eurobodalla Shire are in the best condition they have been in for several years and driving conditions were ideal with a small amount of rain on Friday evening settling the dust.
A large crowd had gathered at the spectator point on the Dog Trap Stage, SS1, ready to cheer on their favourite teams and catch some of the exciting action. And they were in for a treat, as a mammoth battle was about to begin for the win in the 2022 Lazer Rally of the Bay.
Dalton set the early pace in his ProDriver Yaris AP4, winning the first stage on Dog Trap Rd by a margin of just 2 seconds over Hoy in the older Lancer Evolution 6. Dalton then extended his lead by a mere 1 second in the Buckenbowra stage, and then took another 4 seconds in the 25km Clyde Long stage to be leading by an overall margin of just 7 seconds.
But Hoy would fight back in the next stage, taking the win in the 10km Big Bit stage by 8 seconds to move into the lead. With one stage to go in Heat 1, and just 10km of competition left for the first pass over the stages, Hoy was quickest again, taking another 3 seconds off Dalton to win the first heat of the rally by 4 seconds.
Going into the Service break, Dalton felt he’d made a few wrong choices.
“Yeah, huge battle from stage one”, Dalton quipped. “We tried something different. We went on soft DMack tyres , which was a completely wrong choice for the first two stages and they were destroyed, especially as there was a lot of road cleaning in the second stage. I was speaking to Clayton afterwards and he actually went on a soft Hoosier tyre, so we changed over to the Hoosier’s for the last three stages and they worked well.”
“But we were as committed as we could, and he still took eight seconds off us. I don’t know where he got eight seconds in 10km’s, but good on him.”
Hoy also felt like tyre choice was a key factor in the morning stages.
“We put the pedal down a bit”, Hoy said. “But I think we had too soft of a tyre on the first two stages and we were rolling around a fair bit. But I’m quite surprised to be at Richie’s pace. It’s been a long time out of the seat and I’m quite happy. You can’t ask for anymore.”
“The roads suit the car,” Hoy continued. “You don’t need much suspension travel here, and I’m only driving at 90%. But hopefully we can go a bit quicker on the second loop and put a bit of pressure on Richie.”
The second loop around the stages was as just as thrilling as the first. Hoy won the second pass over Dog Trap and then Dalton won Buckenbowra. Dalton then took the win in the Clyde Long stage to take back the top position on the score sheet and was now leading the rally by 2.4 seconds.
The final stage was the repeat run over Big Bit in the dark, and with such a small margin, it was going to be a nail biter. Dalton was first into the stage and set a time of 5 minutes and 56 seconds, two seconds quicker than his previous pass in daylight.
At the end of the final stage, Dalton would need to wait for Hoy to arrive to see the time set.
“We gave it everything”, Dalton said. “I’m actually surprised Clayton took 8 seconds off us on the first run here today, because every other stage is 1 or 2 seconds either way. We had a really good run the last time, so we gave it everything. If it’s not enough, it’s not enough, but man, what a brilliant day.”
“The roads were just the best I’ve ever done. It was a really, really fast rally and it took massive commitment. What an enjoyable day and a big thanks to Mac for stepping in. We had a mighty time. So, I’m really, really happy. Whether it’s a win or not,
“I would like just want to thank all the organisers and volunteers, what a super day.” Dalton concluded.
But when Hoy arrived at the final control, he was faster by 2.8 seconds and that was enough to seal the win.
“Awesome,” Hoy exclaimed. “That was great. No doubt at all. Awesome.”
“This is only the fifth rally I’ve ever finished. And for sure, this tops it all. Finishing third in the Australian Rally Championship is nothing compared to this.” Hoy said.
But the competition conditions don’t allow for 10ths of a second timing, making the final result a dead heat.
Former NSW Rally champions, Tony Sullens and Kaylie Newell, finished the rally third in their Subaru WRX and were the only other crew to win a stage, taking the Buckenbowra 1 stage win by a 3 second margin.