The penultimate round of the Total Traction Services ACT Regional Rally Series – the two-day Corsa di Mille Pini – was won convincingly by Claude Murray and Lizzy Ferme, driving a Datsun 1600; ahead of Simon Gibbons/Michael Heslewood in a Datsun 280Z; and the first of the 4WD crews, Michael Fawcett and Charles Wannop, taking third outright, in a Mitsubishi EVO3.
“All the fast guys in the four wheel drives – while they’re great and they’re fast, and they are the pace setters – you’ve still got to be here at the end to get the results” explained a very happy Murray after the event.
The Corsa di Mille Pini featured three longer stages, all of which exceeded forty kilometres. In this era of “sprint” rallying, did the eventual event winners feel daunted at all by the prospect of such long stages?
“You tend to psyche yourself out” explained Claude, “knowing you have so far to go. But when you get into it, and when you are enjoying yourself, like in the stages in Kowen, they were unreal. We were just smiling and having a great time the whole way.”
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Claude and Lizzy did not have things go all their own way however; with the fellow Datsun 1600 crew of Carl Stewart and Matt James trading stage wins throughout Saturday. An electrical fault on Special Stage 12 put paid to their great run however.
Pre-event favourites – Richard Leitis and Rob Mules – crashed out on the first day, two kilometres into Special Stage 5, while leading the rally.
“I got the call ‘road goes left on crest’, and I don’t know what happened” explained Leitis on the Sunday. “I backed off, and went to take the corner, and the car just didn’t turn.”
The car was in third gear, and doing maybe 100km/h when it ran off the road and hit a rock the size of a car; causing considerable damage to the chassis.
With Claude’s victory, and Richard’s misfortune, six points now separate the two drivers and co-drivers, as they fight it out for the 2007 Gold Cup title.
The final round of the 2007 Total Traction Services ACT Regional Rally Series – the National Capital Rally – will be held in the forests around Canberra on the 17th November.