The Contenders… #AlpineRally100 favourites

Picking a winner in #AlpineRally100 will be difficult – it’s a field full of champions! Here’s a bit of a form-guide…

Current Alpine Champion and 2017 Australian Rally Champion, Nathan Quinn is currently considered to be one of the best and most versatile rally drivers in Australia.  He regularly competes – and wins – against more modern and far newer four-wheel drive machines.  He is fast and smooth and spectacular and is determined to prove that the 2019 Alpine win was simply the first of many.  His Mazda RX2 may be getting on in the tooth, but is lovingly prepared and highly specc’d.  Co-driver Ray Winwood Smith is experiencing a very successful second wind having retired from rallying for some 10 years before making a comeback with Nathan in 2018.

Starting from the prized Car 1 position, the pair ore odds-on to win the 2022 Lock and Load Transport Alpine Rally of East Gippsland.

The enfant terrible of the Victorian Rally Championship! Brendan debuted his immaculate and well engineered Datsun 1600 in the 2019 Alpine, but fell foul to the new-car mechanical gremlins.

In the mean time, Brendan and co-driver Kathryn (Kate) have been knocking on the door of the 2022 two-wheel drive Victorian Championship crown. Having had some very valuable World Rally Championship experience in Europe and some well-credentialed stage events in USA and New Zealand, not only is Brendan fast, but he is spectacular as well. Kate is a former Victorian Rally Champion and knows her way around a road book.

Another candidate for the top step of the podium!

Ever since he made his rallying debut in the 1990s as an entrant in the ARN Junior Rally Challenge, South Australia’s Jack Monkhouse has been one of the most popular drivers in the sport.

Primarily, it’s been his exciting, sideways driving style that has attracted the most attention – and 4960 Facebook friends have since joined the ‘follow Jack’s escapades’ party.

Monkhouse started his rallying career in a Datsun 180B, then moved on to a Mitsubishi Galant VR4, a Lancer Evo 7 and a couple of Nissan Silvias, competing in the Australian Rally Championship.

When his Silvia was totally destroyed after a horrifying accident in his home ARC round in 2014, his thoughts eventually returned back to his Datsun 180B that, ironically, was still sitting in his shed.

Like in any rally car, it’s what’s under the bonnet that makes it a winner …. or not.

Luke has been called the “Norm Beechey of the Forests”, with his displays of fast and flamboyant driving of his Ford Escort and the ensuing entertainment for the spectators which has netted him an outright win against modern 4 wheel drives in a round of the 2019 Victorian Rally Championship.  

National Product manager for rally sponsor Smart Replacement Parts, Luke has been grinding away at the roads in the forests for 12 years. Learning after every outing and getting faster each time. 

Starting off his career in a Pinto engined Ford Escort, he bought the Geoff Portman 2011 Alpine wining Escort RS1800 and continues to use it in Victorian Championship events to great effect.  In 2000 he bought a Ford Fiesta 4WD, but mechanical maladies have thwarted development and thus far the Escort has been Luke’s weapon of choice for wins. 

His co-driver is the very experienced, both within Australia and overseas, Tracey Dewhurst.  Together they make a formidable team and would both love to take home an Alpine win come Sunday night.

Generally acknowledged as the pre-eminent long distance rally crew in Australia, having won the Classic Outback Trial – a 7 day special stage rally held in the wilderness of this country – a whopping 5 times.  This makes the son-and-father team most definitely a team to beat in this year’s Alpine Rally. 

Andrew – a financial adviser – and David – a retired successful dentist – both hail from Bathurst in New South Wales. 

They were well up with the leaders in the 2019 Alpine until crashing out late on Saturday.  The rather unusual car in Australian Rallying is a real powerhouse and has been built and maintained by Ian Wilson and John Gray – two of the most sought after rally engineers around. 

Look for them to finish high up in the order come Sunday afternoon.

A surprise third place in the 2019 Alpine Rally was the icing on the cake for Carl, having fought overheating issues for most of the event.  His final place underlined his talent behind the wheel and the family centric team’s perseverance under difficult conditions. 

Rapid and exciting, Carl will be definitely one to watch on the leaderboard throughout the event.

Whilst not well known south of the Murray, Ryan has a very well prepared and very powerful Datsun Stanza at his disposal and he knows how to drive it!  Fearless and fast in the forests, Ryan is sure to upstage some of the more traditional names in this year’s Alpine Rally, especially if his stage times in New South Wales rallies are anything to go by.  Mechanical issues have however plagued his outright success rate of recent times.

At just 24 years of age, Adrian won the 2002 Victorian Rally Championship, having competed in rallying for just 3 seasons!   Lightning fast in almost any car, Adrian has blitzed all comers in rallies this year and is indeed “the Future” of our sport. 

Quiet and unassuming, he lets his talent behind the wheel do all the talking.  Adrian has built a new car for this year’s Alpine Rally and if the mechanical gremlins can stay away, no doubt he will be at the pointy end of the field for the whole event.

Don’t discount Claude! Claude Murray and Lizzy Ferme took out  Division 1 honours in the gruelling 2007 Alpine Rally and he is fully expecting to not only repeat that feat, but to hold onto the lead until the end!

Former shire postie, Claude will be  one to watch in this weekend  as he puts his Datsun  P510/1600 against a full field in what will no doubt be another remarkable drive,  Claude is used to outpointing many more high powered machines.

Clay and co-driver Catorina hail from Brisbane.  Clay’s car is one of the better repared cars  in classic and historic rallying, being built by Neal Bates Motorsport in its Canberra workshops as a replica of Neal Bates’ similar car, which in turn is a modern incarnation of a 1980’s WRC Twin cam Celica.  The car is rapid and Clay has been achieving some solid results with it, usually in events in New South Wales.

This will be Clay’s third Alpine Rally start.

A former Victorian rally Champion, Alan is the quiet achiever of Victorian Rallying.  While his Nissan Gazelle is loud, it’s driver is quiet but very quick. Michelle Canning has been Alan’s co driver for a while now, and they are a formidable team come the start of any Special Stage.

Watch for Alan and Michelle at the end – they may be the surprise of the event.

At 23 years of age, Queenslander Ryan Williams is one of rallying’s young guns, with an Australian Rally Championship two-wheel win to his credit.

Having cut his teeth in rallying using a Hyndai Excel, the Queensland plumber has progressed through to a Ford Fiesta R2T, but it will be a Datsun Stanza with which he seeks Alpine Rally glory.

The car belongs to Queensland’s Dave Feron, a builder of many high class rally cars over the years.  No doubt the solid and powerful Stanza and the youthful exuberance of Ryan will be something to watch.

Bryan and Jim are long standing competitors in the NSW Rally scene.

Bryan began rallying in the early 80s and Jim in the late 70s. Both are Sydney based and they teamed up together in 2007 to contest the NSW Rally Championship with wins in Narooma and Batemans Bay. The culmination was winning the NSW Rally Championship in 2017. Jim took another NSW Rally Championship in 2019. Bryan’s Alpine record is pretty good: 4th outright in 2015, then Bryan and Jim finished 6th in 2017 and 7th in 2019. 

Their mont has been a pair of Toyota Altezza’s.  Bryan also has another Altezza in NZ and the pair plan to compete in the 2023 Otago Rally. They are looking forward to the 2022 Alpine!

Lee started in rallying in 1983 and became Tasmanian Rally Champion just 4 years later.  He became a regular competitor in the Australian Rally Championship in 1993 and continued on for 10 years.  He was considered a specialist in front wheel drive cars, winning the 2000 F2 Australian Rally Championship with a string of ARC class wins to his bow. 

His co driver, Mitch Newton currently completes with Lee’s son, Aiden in Australian Rally Championship rounds. Mitch’s credential are impressive with the Tasmanian 2WD Champion’s trophy sitting on his desk at home.

Their Alpine car is a Nissan Sunny GTi – a replica of the 1995 British rally Championship work car.  It is really a “hamburger with the lot”, including a 6 speed sequential gearbox  and custom made MCA suspension!

This will be Lee’s 6th Alpine Rally and he is hoping for a finish in the top 10.

After campaigning a Datsun 200B for some years, Darkie (the son of Tom Barr-Smith, a noted South Australian Rally Champion of the late 1960s) purchased a Ford Perana, a South African built version of the Ford Capri, which was fitted out with a whopping big 302 cubic inch V8 engine.  Spectacular and fast, the car is surprisingly nimble through the forests.  Darkie owns a big property and has an equally big right foot.  Make way on approach!

Michael’s business in in Solar Power, but he relies on good old fashioned internal combustion engine grunt to go rallying!  His Stanza is one of the fastest around, witnessed by his stunning run to third place in the recent Classic Outback Trial, after landing in a dam on the first day.  Michael drives the car with all his might and power and a really big heart!  Without doubt, he is spectacular to watch.

Leading NSW rally driver, Tom Clarke, is a successful business owner who is also more than handy behind the steering wheel.

“I had a fascination with the cars from a young age. Through school, some friends of mine got into rallying, and we always went out to watch them. We generally didn’t have a mechanical family, nor the money to delve into the sport. In 2008 I finally decided that I would give it a go, and bought myself a Datsun 1600 as my first car.  I have just chipped away from there until where I am now” Tom said of his career to date.

His mount for his 2022 Lock and Load Transport Alpine Rally of East Gippsland assault is a very well built “no expense spared” Datsun Stanza.  Its got all the god gear and Tom is a really hard charger.  It all adds to a great deal of excitement for spectators.  With some luck Tom’s recent spate of DNF’s won’t continue and he will be up there in the results back at Lakes entrance on Sunday afternoon.

After a sensational 5th outright in the 2019 Alpine Rally, Craig has come to the attention of many Queensland rallyists.  Craig lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, and won the Queensland Novice Championship in 2005 and followed up with taking the Queensland Rally Championship for 2WD in 2019.

With co-driver Megan Byrne, who won the Queensland Rally Championship in 2017 and has been guiding Craig from the left hand seat since their great placing in the 2019 Alpine.  Craig refers to their participation as a real family affair, as her whole family is involved with the sport.

Craig’s car is one of the most unusual in the field, being assembled using “an excess bunch of parts from other Toyotas.” That excess includes a 2.4 litre Hi-Ace van engine and Holden Commodore front suspension.  The unique independent rear suspension is of Craig’s own design. 

His record and reputation is on display at this year’s Alpine Rally and he plays for keeps.

Steve and Tony are stalwarts of the Victorian Rally scene, having been regular competitors in the Victorian Championship, although this year has seen the pair concentrate on the Victorian Club Rally Series, which they won in the final round early in November.  The very tidy Mazda RX7 is somewhat of an obsession with Steve and he continually improves the handling and power output, although the reliability siuffered somewhat early in the year.  Tony is a well regarded navigator/co-driver with a credible CV, including long distance events as well as sprint rallies.

Neil, like brother Peter, excels at vehicle presentation.  Neil’s car is a newer version of the Escort brother Peter is running and boasts a full house 2 litre BDG engine together with all the goodies which go together to make a Ford Escort fast.  Neil and long time co-driver Scott Middleton always have similes on their faces and always have time for a friendly chat.  They enjoy their rallying!

A real hard charger from Victoria, Cody drives with his heart as well as his head and his aggression in the single cam 2 Litre Ford Escort sees him finish well in the placings of the Victorian Club Rally Series as well as the Victorian Rally Championship.  Cody has also recently been co-driver for our event Sponsor, Phil Thomas of Lock and Load Transport in some events. 

Pete’s normal rally mount, a Subaru WRX, is ineligible for the Alpine Rally, so he has rolled out what is probably the best prepared Ford Escort Mk 1 in Australia to battle the East Gippsland Forests in this year’s Alpine Rally.  Peter’s background is long on credentials, with a Victorian Rally Championship round outright win to his name.  Whist the Escort is immaculate; Peter is not afraid to drive it hard and fast and may be a surprise to many.

It’s an all family affair for the team with lead engineer and major sponsor Ben Ruggles heading up the team, Matt Ruggles driving and son Guy Ruggles in the co-drivers seat. They also have their adopted brother, ‘Pommy’ Paul Beaston on the Service Crew.

Matt is no stranger to rallying, having 40 years of driving experience under his belt. He won the inaugural NSW Classic Rally Series in 2006 and is eager to secure a good result in what is one of the rarer rally cars in Australia.

The FIA Group 4 Triumph TR7 V8 sounds magnificent with its deep throaty roar and Matthew is raring to have a red hot go! 

Hailing from Adelaide in South Australia, Jason has been a regular in both Alpine Rallies and the AGL Rally of the Heartland, run out of the lower reaches of the Flinders Ranges.  His never say die attitude leads to some great and purposeful driving of his powerful Datsun 180B four door, especially towards the end of an event.

The smallest car in the 2002 Lock and Load Transport Alpine Rally of East Gippsland.  Tim drives the wheels off this diminutive rocket ship and usually finishes in the top 15 places.  One to watch out for!

Former Australian Rally Champions in 1983 and Kate in 1984 as well, this husband and wife team are icons of Victorian Rallying.  The Galant has recently had a powerplant transplant and more power is on offer to David’s right foot.  In recent years David has taken to rally directing and Kate to administering the membership of the Historic Rally Association, but they still keep their hands in with the occasional competitive drive – of which neither of them has lost any! 

Always smiling and always spectacular, a crew for their competitors to be wary of come the podium.

One of the very much local celebrities in the East Gippsland region, Stuart and his Ford Escort can usually be found somewhere in Bruthen, where Stuart lives and works.  A long time Alpine competitor, Stuart and co-driver Darcy have no illusions of their finishing in the top 3, but they have a heck of a lot of fun trying to get there.

A commercial real estate agent, Joel is also a regular face at just about every Victorian rally, regardless of status.  All rallies, from Australian Championships to club events hold a fascination for Joel, having been hooked on the sport since his early forays in the 1980’s.  Joel has developed well as a strong and forceful driver and his car is a work of art, with all the goodies to go with the looks. 

Joel and co-driver Cathy Elliott have proved to be a solid and reliable team.  His very well developed Datsun Stanza is chock full of go faster bits, electronic and mechanical wizardry and is built by Chris Ellis of Pro Rally Developments, one of our rally sponsors.

A former Victorian Rally Champion (2017) in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, Warren’s weapon for this year Alpine Rally is the ex-Phil Thomas MK 2 Escort – which comes with a 260+bhp Duratec Engine and a sequential 6 speed Hollinger gearbox to keep the driver – and the spectators – entertained!

Warrens successes and his near 40 years history in rallying stand him in good stead for a high calibre Alpine finish.  The Alpine has always been an event to which Warren and co-driver David Lethlan  have aspired to win and with the blazingly fast Escort, this year looks to be their best chance!

Keith and Claire both call Brisbane home and it’s a long way to the Alpine for no reason, so they are intent to be up on the leader board at the finish.  Keith has a high quality rally fabrication and rally car preparation business which shows in the amazingly high standard of this cars build and preparation.  It’s a BDG Cosworth engined Mark 2 Ford escort with all the good stuff from tyres and wheels to its magnificent 5 speed ZF gearbox and 5 link rear suspension. 

The car is very distinctive as it is painted in “Eaton Yale Fork Lift” tribute livery of the similar car which was driven in the 1978 RAC Rally of Great Britain by the late and great Finnish rally driver, Hannu Mikkola.

One of the few drivers in the field in a 240Z, Aiden has demonstrated that he is no slouch behind the wheel on a Special Stage, despite his rare appearances. 

Whenever his name appears on an entry list, it sends shivers up the spine of his opponents.  He is one quick punter!

Braden is without doubt the wild child of Victorian Rallying.  His commitment to throw the big and very powerful Holden Commodore though stages is legendary and his ability to thrill spectators is second to none! Just be careful of  the rocks the rear wheel throw up when he passes. 

Emma sitting in the co-drivers seat makes them one of the several husband and wife teams in this year’s Alpine.

This will be the third drive for Glenn having acquired his second Datsun 1600 from Queensland early last year.  The car had been a regular in the Alpine in the hands of Iain Reddiex and its owner, Mike Mitchell. 

Glenn is probably better known for his other car, “The Grunter Mk 2” which is a modern day version of the 6 time Alpine winner Geoff Portman’s original Grunter – a Datsun 1600 which was chock-a -block with genuine ex-works Datsun 710 SSS running gear and a with very powerful engine set back 200mm from its original location.  Grunter has since seen the inside of the Simsmetal crusher, but Grunter Mk 2 will be on display at the Fan Zone.

David has surprised a lot of people recently with his stunning performances in his now ageing Datsun 1600.  Fast and consistent, he has placed second in the two-wheel drive section of the 2022  Victorian Rally Championship and will be keen to follow up that success with a major placing in the Alpine Rally.

Ian is a regular competitor in the Victorian Rally Championship, although in a four wheel drive Subaru WRX rather than the Datsun with which he will be running in the Alpine.  Steady and consistent is Ian’s mantra, which often sees him finish with top 10 VRC points.  Stephen is a well-regarded co-driver, and is currently the President of the Historic Rally Association, the club which is organizing this event.

1975 Victorian Rally Champion, David Bond has invested heavily in recent times in Ford Escorts – he owns three now – including the famous YJT 444 –  the no expense spared car built for World Champion Bjorn Waldegaard to drive in the 1979 Southern Cross International Rally.  David’s car in this event will be a similar car which was originally built and driven by Ian Hill of New South Wales.  David will be keen to show that the passing of nearly 40 years since his VRC win in a Mitsubishi  Lancer has not dulled his skill behind the wheel or enthusiasm and desire to win.

This will be Neil’s Stanza’s first foray into Alpine territory.  Neil, his brother Adrian and David, his co-driver, are legends of the Australian Rally scene of the 1990’s.

Neil also owns an immaculate Datsun Violet 710 SSS which has been faithfully recreated in every aspect to match the 1977 Southern Cross Rally winning car driven by Finn Rauno Aaltonen  and-co driven by former Australian Champion, Jeff Beaumont.

Roy surprised many of the Victorian Rally fraternity recently with his purchase of a former Colin Bond works Ford Escort, with the very specific intention of competing in this year’s Alpine Rally. 

Since its Ford Escort Rally Team days, the car (the second Colin Bond built “works” car, universally known as INB 115) has been significantly updated from its original 2 litre single cam specification to full Group 4 Twin cam, 16 valve BDG engine specification, including gearbox and rear suspension.  No doubt a fun car to drive, Roy and Tena will face a steep learning curve in the East Gippsland Forests while he comes to grips with the 230 bhp from his new car. 

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Luke Sytema in the 2019 Alpine with co-driver Adam Wright. They came 4th. Pic by Bruce Keys 

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