24 July 2023

Canberra teams taking on the competition at 2023 Rally of the Bay

| James Day
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A rally car driving past on a track in the middle of the bush.

2 Girls Rallying team Bethany Cullen and Mel McMinn will be driving their Mitsubishi Evo on 29 July. Photo: 2 Girls Rallying.

The Lazer Rally of the Bay is back in Batemans Bay for a 50-car showdown on Saturday (29 July) and among the beastly cars heading to the North Shore Sporting Car Club event will be a few Canberra locals hoping to do the Territory proud.

One of them is Michael (Mick) Harding. He likes Subarus, he likes them a lot. He drives one, he runs a workshop in Fyshwick specialising in them (Techworkz Automotive), and if you asked him, he’d tell you to buy one.

Although he began his rally career in 1997, Mick didn’t make the switch from his old Datsun until returning to Canberra from a back-and-forth trip through Townsville and Melbourne.

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“I got hooked on them back in the 90s, when brands such as Subaru, Mitsubishi and Toyota were selling the same cars to the public that drivers were using.

“They’ve got a good look, great sound, and are reliable. But the cars we’re using on the track these days are far too expensive, which is why I’ve got the shop to `mod’ them in-house.”

A subaru rally car in mid air while racing on a dirt track.

Mick and James fly high in their Subaru at an ARC championship last year. Photo: Techworkz Automotive.

This year Mick and his navigator, James Thornburn, hope to take their newly crafted Subaru Impreza WRX to the podium, just like they did last year when they won the ACT championship. As a driver who can take on tarmac and gravel, he’s prepared for any kind of challenge whether it’s from the ground or the air.

But 2GR (2 Girls Rallying) co-driver Mel McMinn says: “When it comes to motorsport, never ask what the weather’s going to be like. Until you get on the track, it doesn’t matter.”

Growing up in Duffy, Mel always heard the cars racing through the forest. After a few years working as a volunteer official, she ended up as one of the state championship attendants helping cars coming in for service.

She was loved by all the drivers because when they rolled down their windows, her short stature always met them eye to eye. Legendary New Zealand driver Possum Bourne told her in one interaction that she’d be a great co-driver because of her height. Today, she and Bethany Cullen take their Mitsubishi Evo across the country for competitions.

Bethany and Mel standing side by side holding trophies.

Bethany Cullen and Mel McMinn after winning a competition in Narooma. Photo: Monaro Photography.

Despite getting the odd jab for being an all-female team, she says they’re always turning heads as they fly past the competition.

Mel says there are a lot more women in the sport since she joined, and young ones are always asking her how they keep their hair out of the way in a race.

But she always tells them: “If you can’t go out there and just have fun, why are you doing it?”

Peter and his former navigator Peter Hellwig beside the Datsun.

Peter Dimmock and his former navigator Peter Hellwig prior to the 2019 Rally of the Bay competition. Photo: P D Motorsport.

Peter Dimmock’s been to the Rally of the Bay 15 times over the past 35 years, and this year he’ll be driving towards a top five finish for his P D Motorsport team.

Born and bred in Canberra, he started rallying in 1978 alongside schoolmates Rick and Neil Bates, who would one day become some of the best rally drivers this country’s ever seen.

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In the 80s Peter was doing mostly club rallying, before moving up to the state championship podiums in the 90s with his 4WD Datsun. But he keeps coming back to the Rally of the Bay for some key reasons.

“It’s well organised, has nicely picked roads, and you’ll get a bit of everything on these tracks. There’s always some interesting racing done out in those parts.”

Spectator details will be released closer to the date. Follow the Rally of the Bay on Facebook for the latest.

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