Julian Wright’s ’71 Datsun 1200. Image: CMR Photographics.
Eight West Australians are contesting the iconic Alpine Rally which gets underway Friday in Lakes Entrance, in north east Victoria.
The historic three-day gravel rally – Australia’s oldest and largest – is also the world’s second oldest after Monte Carlo. It covers 725 kilometres, of which 375 kms are competitive.
Held every two years, with only 2WD vehicles eligible, the rally has attracted the cream of Australia’s gravel racers including six former Australia Rally Champions.
The entry list is at capacity with 125 caall of which are at least 25 years old; the Historic Rally Association received 300 expressions of interest.
In keeping with the essence of the Alpine Rally of being a test between man and machine rather than technology, vehicles must not be turbo-charged or 4WD.
“This rally is a bucket list for every rally driver in Australia,” according to Onslow Contracting Director Hugh Harmer, leading a WA convoy of four drivers on the 3700kms road trip.
“It doesn’t matter who are you, it’s equal and fair, no super turbo, no four wheel drive – I reckon it’s a beautiful event and in a beautiful place.”
Image: Paul Mollison.
Competing with co-driver Mitch Gray in his 1979 VB Commodore – with its 253 engine producing 178hp in the back wheels – Hugh reckons he has the best car in Australia. “Oh, she wouldn’t win a race in a fat fit, but she’s a beautiful car to drive!”
The Alpine Rally is a ‘blind rally’ where crews read diagrams of driving instructions (called tulips) in event-issued roadbooks. With no recce and no pace notes of their own, the pressure is on the co-drivers to relay driving instructions to drivers.
The WA contingent includes East Vic Park HR manager Ben Searcy, Hugh’s son Shane, Bunbury’s Mark Travers, Jeremy Edwards, Nicholas Anyan and Clubman Master champ Julian Wright, owner of Network IT.
The Alpine Rally – started in 1921 making it the world’s fourth oldest motorsport event after the Monte Carlo Rally, the French Grand Prix and Indianapolis – finishes Sunday.
For results visit www.alpinerally.org.au
From DIANNE BORTOLETTO
EDITED by AC