Western Australian co-driver invasion at the International Rally of Queensland
Western Australian co-drivers were heavily represented in the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championships (ARC) last weekend, with Bill Hayes, Ben Searcy and Daymon Nicoli all competing in the International Rally of Queensland round.
The stages of the Queensland round are notorious with competitors as being one of the most challenging, and it didn’t disappoint with sweeping, rough roads and adverse weather conditions keeping competitors on their toes.
With a successful championship start in the previous two rounds, Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes were leading the championship point score, but a weekend of mechanical problems including gearbox and radiator issues, saw their Renault Clio cross the finish line in third with a margin of 9 minutes 12.
“We didn’t have the best weekend, although we managed to come away with some good points. We’ve lost the lead in the championship but we’re still well and truly in touch,” said Hayes.
“Queensland is a really tough event. Usually only the winner gets through with a clean run, and that is why big time gaps are common between first, second and third place getters.
“Even though we won the Canberra round, we wanted to find a little bit more pace. We had a test day on Wednesday to try some new components and driving improvement, but it was pouring with rain and just turned into a disaster. We ended up getting no value out of the test whatsoever.
“The plan for Queensland was to be a lot closer to the pace of Eli and Simon Evans, which unfortunately we weren’t. Some of that is because it’s a specialist event, and probably the hardest event of the year. We were chasing drivers who had competed in it ten plus times!
“Molly has only competed in the Rally of Queensland once before in 2007 but in a low horsepower car, so there’s no real prior event knowledge there.
“We still won a stage and produced some good times on others, but the mechanical issues obviously put us behind.
“What impressed me was the way that Molly dealt with all the outside stress. Often when there are car complications it is common for drivers to make mistakes and have accidents, but she showed a mature head during those situations. We may not have been as fast as we would have liked to have been, but she did a really good job and we came home with another podium.”
Daymon Nicoli got a very last minute call to join driver for Ashlea James for the round. Nicoli had competed in Rally of Queensland before with Western Australian Rally Championship team mate Raz Vlad, so knew to expect a tough event.
“Rally of Queensland is definitely one of the toughest rounds of the event. Not only is it quite rough compared to the rest, but it is also an endurance round for points, so you have to finish both heats,” said Nicoli.
“The strategy for myself and Ashlea was to get to know each other as well as we could before we jumped in the car together, and from there we wanted to finish the event and develop the car.”
Despite the new partnership and being plagued by mechanical problems the pair managed to finish in fifth outright with a margin of 23 minutes 10.
“We had a lot of car issues, mainly engine issues from the very first stage and they didn’t get fixed until the last service which was Sunday afternoon. It ended up working out well because we then had four stages where we could drive the car properly,” said Nicoli.
“The highlight of this weekend was definitely finishing, because that was the goal from the start! Many teams struggled to even achieve that this weekend.”
Ben Searcy and driver Simon Evans, were hoping this round would mark a change of luck for them. Unfortunately the pair had a problem-riddled Leg One, but managed to salvage the event when things went more to plan on Leg Two.
“We were out there to regain some points following the bad start we had at the Forest Rally. It wasn’t the result were hoping for, and we didn’t finish on Saturday due to breaking driveshaft during an off. However, we were able to fix the car and get that going on Sunday, and went on to achieve maximum points for that day,” said Ben.
The off that Evans and Searcy experienced on the Saturday was due to a corner that was noted incorrectly during recce.
“It was a tighter corner than what we had listed, which caused us to run wide over a crest and go off the road. We were lucky it was just a broken driveshaft and we didn’t roll the car.
“This is Simon and I’s first full season together. We’re there - our pace time is good, but we just need to put it together for the whole event.”
While there is a good mateship and mutual respect between all the local co-drivers in the ARC, on the track it is down to business.
“There seems to be a few WA rally co-drivers competing with interstate drivers, and we are all good mates, but we all want to win that’s for sure!” said Searcy.
“There is a good respect that goes on between all the WA co-drivers. What we need though is a few more West Aussie drivers doing the championship,” said Hayes.
The East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship continues with the Rally Australia round held in Coffs Habour New South Wales on the 10th to 13th of September.
The Western Australia co-drivers are now focused on the next round of the Western Australian Rally Championship, the Quit Experts Cup, which will take place in Collie on 27th July.
ARC International Rally of Queensland Outright Top Five
||Evans – Weston
||Citroen DS3 R3
||Coppin – Kelly
||Citroen DS3 R3
||Taylor – Hayes
||Mackenzie – Mackenzie
||Ford Fiesta ST
||James – Nicoli
||VW Polo Vivo
Photo: Molly Taylor and Bill Hayes. Credit: Stuart Bowes
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