This was pretty much going to be just a post with a few links to maps and the spectator guide for this weekend’s Rally of South Australia, round three of the South Australian Rally Championship and round four of the Australian Rally Championship. But that would have been pretty boring, right? Luckily Henry Nott and the NOTTRacing crew stepped up and invited Any Given Reason to their Wednesday test day, so I strapped in for a sideways blast down the muddy test stage in Henry’s seriously quick little Lancer Evo 6. But more on that in a moment.
Rally is arguably one of the hardest forms of motorsport to take photos of because you can’t just simply rock up and start shooting. Before you even get to thinking about camera gear and knowing how to use it, you need to be in the right place at the right time. And with literally hundreds of competitive kilometers stretching the entire Adelaide Hills over just three days, you can’t be everywhere at once.
The only real way to do it is to drive the entire course beforehand and make educated guesses about which spots will deliver the results. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you mess it up completely, but at the end of the day that’s half the fun. So with the competitors out there completing their recce and writing their pacenotes, we grabbed a forestry key to the Mount Crawford Forest and joined them in my WRX to go have a look.
You end up in some odd places and see some pretty odd things at times. These chickens were roosting on the roadside and didn’t seem to mind at all that we stopped to say hi. There sadly weren’t any eggs, not that we really had a way to take them home anyway.
On the stages that are regularly used you end up in places that are strangely familiar, if not a little famous to rally folk at least. Most people probably drive past this crumbling shed and don’t give it a second thought, however I’d bet that almost every rally person to drive the Tweeden stage can’t help but remember one of the most spectacular crashes in Rally SA’s history, back in 2012.
But that wasn’t a problem as it just gave Henry a good excuse to throw the car around a little bit. He was tipping it in for my enjoyment more than you normally would if you were competing, but the thing that struck me was just how stable the Evo was through the slippery gravel turns. My knowledge of gravel rally car setup isn’t huge but I could see how the car was obediently responding to each of Henry’s inputs, which were small and calm in nature so as not to unnecessarily unsettle the car.
It’s been a few years since I’ve done a gravel stage in a proper car, and it was a shock reminder of just how fast these things are when the driver is properly on it. It’s not so much the outright power or the punch in the back (which is good, mind you), but the absolute commitment these guys have. No matter how fast you think you can drive in your road car on an open road, it’s nothing compared to what these guys are doing. Henry was setting the Evo up into scando slides 100m from the corner at 120+ km/h, on slushy wet muddy roads. And I’m well aware that this was just a bit of fun for Henry, and to be sitting in that co-drivers seat as he is fighting for an outright win along the Tweeden stage would be a whole other level again.
There was some other interesting machinery making use of the test stage as well, such as this RA40 Celica. Built by Neal Bates Motorsport in Canberra, it is the first Classic RA40 customer car and is based Bates’ own RA40 that has taken the classic rally championship by storm. Bates has actually won outright stages in his RA40 (beating even the fastest of the moderns), so it will be interesting to see how this new car performs.
The stages on council roads are very good – the roads have held up well and whilst there are some slippery spots, overall they look very good. The forestry stages are a different story, and the whole forest is waterlogged.
Most of the actual roads are still pretty good, but it’s muddy and boggy just a few meters either side. We had to drive past this logging truck on the grass and whilst with four wheel drive we made it through no problems, it was still extremely slippery. This could make for an interesting event, because an overshot corner or missed braking point could potentially end up getting you bogged and costing lots of time. It’ll certainly be a case of knowing where to push.
Whilst it’s not expected to rain during the actual event, there is heavy rain forecast overnight Thursday and a 50% chance of snow in parts of the Adelaide Hills on Friday, so anything could happen.
– There is an excellent PDF spectator guide with information about the event, past winners, entered crews, the route and maps to the various spectator points. Having driven the course, the spectator points listed are actually very good. Download it here.
– Alternately (and a first for any rally in Australia), there is an interactive iPad spectator guide app. It has the same info as the PDF guide but it links with Google maps and will give you directions right to where you want to go. Search for it in the App Store.
– The complete entry list can be found here. There’s an Audi S1 Quattro entered in the classic section – say no more. Sure, it’s a replica. But it still has that wailing five cylinder which should be pretty special to hear at full noise.
– The Service Park is at Mount Pleasant and the cars cycle in and out all day. Entry is free.
– The Saturday night Super Special Stage will be held at the Gawler showgrounds from 530pm, and it will cost you $10.50 to get in.
– SS4, 8 & 14 Red Gum Flat has been completely cancelled due to flooded roads.
– SS1, 5, 11 & 18 Dewells has been altered to avoid some flooded roads.
– SS21 HQ has been significantly shortened to about half its length. The spectator point at Mount Road is still probably the best place to see this stage from – you’ll be able to see the cars navigate a gate out of the forest onto a short section of public road, and this remains unchanged.
– I’d advise against trekking through Mt Crawford forest to find a spot outside of the official spectator points. The forest is officially closed so you’ll be trespassing, and this year there will be increased Police patrols looking for unauthorised spectators. There are more course cars for this reason, too. And the forest is so waterlogged (knee deep water in many places) that you’ll struggle to get anywhere good without being spotted and kicked out. And anyway, the spectator points are just as good as anywhere else and are free and easy to get to with no stress.
– See you out on the stages!