Competitors rallying for final points at milestone Carringtons Safari
Photo: Currently sitting second outright, competitors Rob Webber and Toni Feaver are no strangers to Safari.
Celebrating 50 years, the Carrington’s Safari Rally has stood the test of time, and forms the final test for 4WD Western Australian Rally Championship (WARC) competitors. WARC front-runners are not expecting an easy cruise to the finish line this weekend with the 131-kilometre, eight-stage event providing its share of championship upsets in the past.
Garry Whittle and Stephen Vass in the Rezolt Subaru WRX are in a good position going into the event with 23 points separating themselves and the second placed team of Robert Webber and Toni Feaver in the Platinum Automotive Mitsubishi Evo 9. However, Whittle says despite the margin he is still feeling a little apprehensive.
“In the past there have been many championship frontrunners who have gone into this rally hopeful and have come away with their heads hanging low. We've got a plan to do what is necessary and that's all,” said Whittle.
“There's a bigger picture here, it's not just about a rally now, it is about the whole season. We've done a lot of preventative maintenance on the car and we're hoping that we've covered everything. We are trying not to overthink it and go in with the same attitude that we use for all rounds.
“I like Safari, it hasn't been cruel to me but I know it has been extremely cruel to a lot of other people and I am bearing that in mind. It is the type of rally where you need to keep the car fairly straight and in the centre of the road. It doesn't forgive mistakes easily, and knowing that, I am going to try and not to make too many mistakes.”
Robert Webber’s co-driver, Toni Feaver is currently leading the co-driver’s championship by six points. Webber says securing the co-driver’s championship for Feaver is their main priority for this round.
“We only need to finish second for Toni to win the co-driver’s championship, so our concentration will be on that, and we’ll just see where the numbers lie at the end for the driver’s one.
“I know Garry has it fairly wrapped up at this stage – it is a case of ‘unless he doesn't finish he wins’. But Safari proved last year that anything can happen.”
Third placed Brad Markovic is going into the round with determination to close the point’s gap that should keep Whittle and Webber on their toes.
“We’re going out there to win. It’s as simple as that,” said Markovic.
Mark Travers continues to dominate the 2WD Championship, despite missing the Expert’s round of the event. Travers and co-driver Lee Tierney in the LRT Custom Engineering Toyota AE86 are ahead of Andy Van Kann and Madelin Kirkhouse in the Platinum Automotive Toyota TE26 by 14 points.
“It's a little bit stressful leading the championship, I thought I'd be behind in the chase,” said Travers.
“We've got a couple of behind the scenes friendly rivalries - people we are in close competition with that we are going to try and beat. Tom Wilde and I have raced together for a long time and we've been setting very similar stage times. It's real good, fun, healthy competition. He probably would have beat me last round, but we were lucky enough to finish and he didn’t! That is just what it takes sometimes, it probably isn't the best way to win but you got to take it.
“It would be nice to win the championship but our strategy is still just going out there and trying our best. We're not going to back off in any way, we're just going to see what happens.”
While there are only two points separating Van Kann and Kirkhouse from third placed Greg Flood and Jennifer Gerdei in the Greg Flood Electrical Mitsubishi Lancer, Van Kann says he is also keeping his strategy for the year consistent.
“The points are very tight and both Greg Flood and Shane Harmer have way more speed than me,” said Van Kann. “So hanging on to a podium spot for the next two rounds is unlikely.”
“Despite my position on the table, the approach remains unchanged - meticulous car preparation and tactical driving, it’s the only way I can make up for my lack of speed.
“Fortunately my co-driver Madelin Kirkhouse takes a very professional approach to her rallying, so neither of us are going to hand over a podium spot without fighting all the way to the last Flying Finish of the last rally."
Photo: Last year's Clubman Cup Champions, Karl and Tracey Rattenbury face close competition for second in 2015.
It has been a cat and rat chase for the majority of the season between Jason and Paul Lowther in the LRT Custom Engineering Toyota Corolla, and the Rally Rat’s Carl and Tracey Rattenbury in the Ford Escort. Despite not having the smoothest of seasons, the Lowthers are now a reasonably comfortable 32 points ahead of last year’s champions.
“We are really looking forward to this Safari. It is a special event for the Light Car Club and we are keen to see the new spectator point in town,” said Tracey Rattenbury.
“We have made a few modifications to the car recently and are trialing new Kumho tyres this round.
“The championship is super close now, so we are hoping to finish strong and keep it interesting for the Darling 200.”
Being just 16 points behind the Rattenburys, third placed Andrew and Stuart Percival in the Thornlie Towing Honda Civic will no doubt keep the pressure on the front end of the field.
This is the penultimate round of the championship for 2WD and Clubman Cup competitors with their final round, the Darling 200, being held on November 14.
The Carrington’s Safari Rally is Australia’s longest continually running rally. Originally the Light Car Club Safari Rally, and still run by the Light Car Club today, the first rally was run in 1966.
For further information on the Western Australian Rally Championship rounds, road closures and results please refer to www.rallywa.com.
The Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship is supported by Healthway and the Quit message, Onslow Contracting, Verandah Apartments, Auto One and Performance Racegear.
Media contact: Lauren Cornes, Pronto PR, email@example.com, 0431 080 811