Neal Bates wins spectator-free Blue Range Rallysprint

Sharon Kelley 28 September 2020
Neal Bates and co-driver Anthony Caldwell driving in the Blue Range Rallysprint.

Neal Bates and co-driver Anthony Caldwell won the Blue Range Rallysprint on 5 September. Photo: Peter Norton, Epic Sports Photography.

Four-time Australian rally champion Neal Bates and navigator Anthony Caldwell won the Blue Range Rallysprint on 5 September, in a spectator-free event hosted by the Canberra Light Car Club.

Event organiser and clerk of the course, Canberra Light Car Club’s Peter Stringfellow, said due to COVID-19 restrictions, the entry list was confined to southern NSW entrants and conducted in accordance with strict social distancing measures under the club’s COVID-19 plan.

“It wasn’t open to public spectators, but the Rebels Baseball Club held a barbecue and we had a coffee cart up there,” he said. “It was great to have them there to keep everyone fed during the day. There’s a great group of people around the event volunteering and working hard together to make it happen.”

Neal Bates said he is pleased with the win, but thought fellow competitors Chris Higgs and Andrew Penny had his measure prior to the race.

“It was incredibly nice to be back in the car,” said Neal. “I’m sure I’m not at the top of my game as I was when rallying full-time, but looking at Chris Higgs and Andrew Penny, they are both really good drivers. I didn’t think I would win it.

“I really enjoyed it and I’d like to do some more. The Monaro Stages [Rally] is a possibility. When you haven’t been doing it as much, you remember how enjoyable it is once you’re in the car.”

In their first rallying event, Canberra competitors Evan Pine and navigator Erin Barker, in their Toyota Starlet, finished the race after a slight altercation with a tree.

“They’ve been doing Khanacross events and they’re members of the Canberra Light Car Club,” said Peter. “This was the first time they’d entered a rally. They had a little kiss with a tree, but continued and finished the event.

“It’s really important that the younger drivers and navigators can get some practice in, and learn the skills of driving in a rally. So we have a series of events to build up to rallying; you can’t enter it without building up that skill set.”

Canberra Light Car Club’s next event will be a Khanacross at the Symonston track on the weekend of 12-13 September. The next rallying event will be the 2020 Kosciuszko Automotive Monaro Stages on 31 October.

Provisional results for the Blue Range Rallysprint can be viewed on the Canberra Light Car Club website.

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