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RallySport Magazine May 2017

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  • Rally
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The May 2017 issue of RallySport Magazine features: News / Regulars: * National Capital Rally preview * Vale: Timo Makinen * Five minutes with - Ross Tapper * Martin Holmes column * Photo of the month Feature stories: * Molly Taylor column * Head and neck safety * Subaru’s RS Challenge - a look back * Audi Magic - Dylan Turner’s Quattro S1 AP4 * A Kiwi in Argentina * A WRC hijacking in Sanremo Event reports: * WA Forest Rally - ARC 2 * Rally of Whangarei - NZRC 2 * Southern Rally - SARC 1 * Rally of Argentina - WRC 5 * Rally of Portugal - WRC 6 * Mitta Mountain Rally


RETROSPECTIVE: SUBARU RS CHALLENGE Back in the mid-2000s Subaru Australia put tremendous backing into a similar series that ran for two seasons in conjunction with the Australian Rally Championship. Up to 16 Imprezas were appearing on ARC rounds, including a media car that was driven by motoring journalists such as Paul Gover (now CarsGuide editor) and Neil Crompton (the voice of Supercars). RallySport Magazine’s Peter Whitten was given the chance to drive the car in the 2004 Rally of South Australia and teamed up with fellow rally scribe, Tom Smith, in the two-day event. With a similar series now back and running in Tasmania, we thought it timely to re-print some of our thoughts on the Impreza RS after the event finished. Peter Whitten (right) and Tom Smith in 2004. THE RS EXPERIENCE .... or “my week as a works Subaru driver” It came like a bolt out of the blue. There I was on a miserable winter’s night, getting kids ready for bed, when my mobile phone. “We were wondering if you’d be interested in driving the RS Challenge media car in the Rally of South Australia? Entries close this Friday and we need to get it sorted in the next day or so.” It took me about half a nanosecond to agree, and before I knew it I was entered in round four of the Australian Rally Championship under the Subaru Rally Team Australia banner. The most popular one-make series in Australian Rally Championship history, the Subaru RS Challenge quickly became ‘the’ series for up and comers. With 15 entries in each of the three rounds of the ARC and 20 | RALLYSPORT MAGAZINE - MAY 2017 intense competition between all crews, reputations were quickly forged. Right from the outset though I was under no illusions as to what I wanted to achieve from the event. First and foremost, the plan was to get the car to the finish on both days of the event. You might say that driving someone else’s car should mean you can ‘pin back the ears’ and try and set some scorching stage times, but in reality you have more to lose than you have to gain. Cruise around at the back of the field and you’ll probably create little interest, but go out and crash and there’s every chance you’ll be the laughing stock of the presentation dinner. Neil Crompton was certainly red faced after he put the car off the road twice in Tasmania. Setting competitive times with the leading RS Challenge competitors wasn’t on my list of priorities. With three events already under their belts, these guys were setting some amazing stage times and pushing right to the limit. However, if we could be quicker than some of the RS cars on the stages then that would be a real bonus – as long as I brought the car to the finish! TESTING At our pre-event test, it immediately became obvious that the Impreza RS was a well balanced car. Handling appeared very neutral in the wet conditions and my only real job was to get used to the hard brake pedal. After a few runs in the car, the team reconnected the brake booster, and while this made the pedal softer, the car had a tendency to lock the wheels under heavy braking and twice I understeered straight on at the junction. Disconnecting the brake booster gave the pedal a harder feel again, but with the excellent SBS brake pads fitted, it

wanted to stop first time, every time. I decided this was the better set up for the event. DAY 1 Saturday morning dawned cloudy but fine as we headed off for the first day’s stages. To say I was nervous was an understatement, but with the weather still dry it put me in a more confident frame of mind. With a fine day before the rally the stages weren’t nearly as slippery as they had been in recce and we set off at a steady pace. We arrived back at service with no problems to report and were shocked to hear we’d been third fastest Impreza RS on just the second stage. We’d had a good run, but already John Goasdoue had crashed out and Eli Evans had lost a wheel, so the pace was already proving to be a hot one. The ‘works’ driver thing was still a bit hard to believe. Our car was serviced next to the Impreza WRXs of Crocker and Herridge and a good crowd was regularly on hand to watch our guys service the car – a buzz for them as much as for Tom and I. The first stage after service was the challenging Mt Gawler test. This stage included a frightening stretch of tarmac – 2.5km and all downhill. Neal Bates described it as the most dangerous stretch of road he’d rallied on! Still, things were going well and after three more stages we serviced for a second time, only requiring a fill of fuel and a general spanner check. The team also took the time to fit the driving lights for the final stages. By now we were getting in to the swing of being ‘works’ drivers, disappearing into the Subaru team caravan to fuel up our bodies while the service crew attended the car. We were up to eighth among the 16 RS Imprezas, surprising ourselves along the way. Rain was now looking more and more ominous as we headed for the final five stages of the day. The first three were repeats of earlier in the day and we got through them okay, but by the time we reached the final two tests the weather had turned decidedly inclement. Everything had gone to plan to date and despite being handily placed, I was determined not to risk the car on the The Impreza RS was a neutral handling, easy to drive rally car. final stages. It was now getting late in the afternoon and the sun had long since disappeared behind the rain clouds, making it more difficult to see. At the front of my mind I had visions of Neil Crompton putting the car off the road on the final stage of Heat 1 in Tasmania, so I set off ensuring that we didn’t suffer the same fate. Driving conservatively over the final two tests we reached the end of Heat service in one piece, and were rewarded with sixth place among the 16 RS Imprezas. While our car wasn’t scoring one-make series points, it at least gave us an indication of our performance. While Tom and I ventured into the MAY 2017 - RALLYSPORT MAGAZINE | 21

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