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Old 05-08-2001, 09:46 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2000
Location: Hawtlanta!!!
Exclamation Rally of Canberra: Lots of Problems...(Warning: Very Long)

Subaru International Rally of Canberra - Update
Asia Pacific Event Round One

The Rally of Canberra enjoys a reputation as not only as the most friendly for spectators and competitors, but also as one of the toughest to finish. Every year crews complete recce in comfortable style as the stages are close to Canberra, and fully expect the good roads to be gentle on car and fun to compete on. And every year when the rally starts they drop out at an alarming rate.

The 2001 Subaru Rally of Canberra was no different, with 10 out of the 45 starting crews failing to finish the first day of competition on Friday, and others experiencing problems. Asia Pacific Championship rounds are run to the Super Rally format, meaning crews may start again the next day, but not be classed as a finisher, only limited points can be gained. The MRT strategy was always to set a consistent rather than fast pace, and look to be a survivor at the end of the rally.

Day 1 consisted of three famous stages, Molonglo Ridge, Bobs and Pipeline, totalling approx 33km, each repeated twice in the afternoon for a total of the day of 66km. The warm dry weather from recce continued into the rally, meaning dust would be the biggest problem. As suspected, many crews started the rally at full ARC "sprint speeds", placing MRT in 14th position by the end of the first circuit of forest stages. A small brake problem was the only difficulty experienced after a 5 month layoff from competition, the last time the car was driven in anger being in Jamaica in December 2000.

However on the second loop of stages the infamous Canberra reputation began to surface. First Stewart Reid (Mitsubishi Lancer) had a flat tyre, costing MRT approx 30 seconds as they followed his car out of Molonglo Ridge in the dust. He was to retire two stages later with a blown motor. Then Spencer Lowndes (Lancer) and Simon Evans (Subaru WRX) were to retire in a combination of accident and mechanical problems from pushing too hard. At the rear of the field, Ben Searcy (Suzuki Swift) had travelled all the way from Perth to comprehensively roll into retirement within the first 500m of Stage 1.

An estimated 8000 people packed the Canberra Entertainment Centre on Friday night to watch the first nights entertainment as crews competed side by side on the EPIC Super Special Stage. Paired against a Mitsubishi Lancer, the MRT Subaru easily won the stage to finish the day in 10th position, 8.1secs behind Osamu Yamaguchi and 3.1sec ahead of Seiichiro Taguchi both in Lancer Evo VI's

Day two dawned equally bright and sunny and crews set off to tackle another three stages, Mineshaft, East West and new Lees Creek, twice totalling approx 112km of competitive. In the first 26km stage things were going well for MRT, an increasing trail of dust indicating they were catching Yamaguchi not only in time but also on the road. After bursting over the infamous mineshaft and its almost sheer 100m drop, the car suddenly lost power to the the wheels as the clutch overheated. After sitting on the side of the stage for over eight minutes the crew was finally able to select a gear and drive the remaining 2km out of the stage and into retirement.

A problem the team has never had, this was a disappointing result especially as other competitors continued to have problems even if this did not put them out of the event. By the end of the event the only leading crew not to suffer a major problem was Cody Crocker and Greg Foletta in the Group N Subaru.

After changing the clutch and a check of the gearbox, the MRT crew were able to continue on Sundays stages under the Super Rally format. Re seeded down the field to prevent disturbing the leading crews, the boys had to pick their way through the stones from the top cars, on the two Kowen Forest stages. Crashing heavily into a deep rut at well over 140km/h a rim was bent causing a flat tyre, however the team were able to drive the remaining 2km (a very fast part of the course at over 160 km/h) to the end of the stage with the tyre disintegrating and flapping about, before stopping to change the tyre after the finish control, with little loss of time.

The team choosing to run a sensible pace over the (sometimes) very rocky course with no result to be won, were satisfied with several top ten outright stage times.

"I am still surprised just how fast and durable the car is, its a credit to STi, Possum Bourne Motorsport and MRT Performance, all well known Rally workshops who have had some involvement in the history and preparation of this car" Brett said." We were also able to gain some added testing and further development of our Dog Gear sets, that have been in so much demand recently" he added.

Whilst the rally result was disappointing for the MRT team, the atmosphere and interest generated by the Subaru Rally of Canberra is extremely motivating. An even larger crowded turned out at EPIC on Saturday night to watch the days final Super Special Stage, ahead of the live broadcast of the final stage from the same venue on the Channel 10 RPM show, Sunday afternoon. In fact because they were not busy competing on Saturday night the team was able to hand out thousands of the new MRT Rally Team stickers amongst the crowd, including one to each of the over 160 Subaru Owners Club WRX's in the clubs parade lap.
An estimated 350 Subaru WRX's attended the "WRX festival" during the rally, this must surely be a new world record!

Next event for the MRT team is what will hopefully be the first actual round of the NSW Rally Championship, (the first two postponed due to rain) at Bega on the June long weekend. Known as "rally heaven" this event will surely suit the HP capabilities of the MRT Subaru WRX, with roads typically being sweeping Shire stages and very smooth gravel.
"Bega is a real tyre eater, and with the support of Falken we will go armed with even more tyres than last time when we ran out" Brett said, The event is simply not to be missed" he added.

Congratulations to the winners:
1st Possum Bourne and Mark Stacey Subaru World Rally Car
2nd Neal Bates and Coral Taylor Corolla World rally Car
3rd Cody Croker and Greg Foletta Subaru STi Ver 6 Impreza Group N (also winners Group N)

Well, Subaru does it again...
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