COFFS COAST (NSW) – Local hero Nathan Quinn claimed his first CAMS Australian Rally Championship in front of passionate supporters at Kennards Hire Rally Australia yesterday.
The Coffs Harbour businessman dominated the national field in the fifth and final ARC round, which was run alongside the FIA World Rally Championship closing round.
He won all three legs over Friday, Saturday and Sunday and 12 of the 17 stages to claim the round victory by a staggering 13 minutes and earn points needed to clinch the championship.
With co-driver Ben Searcy, he also took it to the best rally drivers in the world, finishing ninth outright in the WRC field in a 10-year-old Mitsubishi Evolution IX.
Quinn said he realised a long-held dream.
“I’m pretty sure I was born with a dream to go rallying,” he said.
“Watching my dad compete when I was a kid, this day was the goal from the get-go and now I’ve finished that for him.”
The 31-year-old revealed it was only an off-hand comment by fellow driver Eli Evans that made him register for this year’s Australian Rally Championship.
“We went to the Eureka Rally to get a seed to do a classic rally we wanted to do,” Quinn explained.
“Eli Evans said ‘Quinny, you never know, you should just register for the championship’. So I borrowed $1500 bucks off my girlfriend and paid it back by June. Then Neal Bates Motorsport helped me get to Perth. Then there was a bunch of Irish lads that chipped in for a new engine.
“We could not have asked for a better year in terms of support and here we are now. It was an unfortunate problem for Molly (Taylor), but a miracle for us.”
The five-round championship was not all smooth sailing for Quinn. His hopes looked dashed after round three when he was forced out of Canberra’s National Capital Rally just before the finish.
But a determined Quinn buckled down for a clean sweep at Lightforce Rally SA, his first ARC round win putting him into title contention.
Taylor’s championship defence ended before the final morning’s first stage began. The Subaru do Motorsport team worked through Saturday night to fix engine damage, but Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes weren’t able to rejoin the competition.
Taylor said the team did everything possible to fight for the championship.
“We tried to run today. We knew it was going to be a small chance that it would work, but we tried everything,” she said.
“It’s not the first time we have been bitterly disappointed and it probably won’t be the last. For us we look back on the whole year as a team and we did our absolute best on every rally. We can hold our heads high.
“In the end what happened was something that we couldn’t control. It makes us hungrier for next year, we want this more than anything.”
New South Welshman Tom Clarke and co-driver Ryan Preston came through to secure second outright.
Maximum Motorsport’s John O’Dowd finished third. The West Australian claimed his first ARC podium, took out the ARC2 4WD title and slipped into third in the ARC driver pointscore.
McM RallySport’s Stephen Mee had worked hard to improve the reliability of his Toyota Corolla before Rally Australia and was rewarded with a win in the ARC2 2WD final.
Irish pair Michael O’Hagan and Owen Moynihan won the ARC Classic Challenge in a Ford Escort Mark II.