Colin McRae continues his run of success in the Antipodes
This year’s Telecom Rally Australia lacked nothing of its former stature, despite having lost its full World Championship status to become a qualifier in only the two-wheel-drive, two-litre series, which is considered no more than a little brother of the major championship even though talk (and so far it is only talk) says that this is the way forward for the main World Rally Championship.
The rally in Western Australia is a relative newcomer to the series, although the country’s Southern Cross Rally, held at the opposite end of the country, was a renowned event in its day, long before the FIA deemed it timely (or gave in to pressure) and created what was first called the International Rally Championship. Even then, the sport was not considered sufficiently ‘respectable’ to merit ‘world’ status.
The Southern Cross was well known among rally people of the time, and attracted a generous measure of competitors from Europe, but when the Western Australia people came along with a new candidate for the World Championship which was accepted by the FIA hierarchy of the time, the teams contesting the series took to it like frogs to lily ponds.
Suddenly, it was fashionable to go to Australia and teams based in Europe, even those of Japanese manufacturers, considered the costly trip worthwhile in view of the Antipodean promotion to be gained from such an event, despite the previous (and continuing) feeling among the car makers of Japan that contests in Africa, especially the Safari, provide the most lucrative publicity.
One Japanese manufacturer with such a view is Subaru, which is why Prodrive is committed to the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. A three-car team of Impreza 555s was therefore entered by the Banbury outfit for Peter Bourne/Tony Sircombe, Richard Burns/Robert Reid and Colin McRae/Derek Ringer. Toyota sent one of the new Celica GT-Fours for Juha Kankkunen/Nicky Grist, whilst Mitsubishi Ralliart had two Lancer Evolution IIs for Kenneth Eriksson/Staffan Parmander and Ross Dunkerton/Fred Gocentas. Slightly older versions of the Lancer were driven by Australian crews Ed Ordynski/Mark Stacey, David/Kate Officer and Michael Guest/David Green.
Skoda, with its eyes on the world two-wheel-drive series, sent two Favorit 136Ls for Pavel Sibera/Petr Gross and Emil Triner/Jiri Klima, whilst Grégoire de Mevius/Willy Lux went from Belgium with an Opel Astra GSi.
The two drivers who dominated this event were McRae and Kankkunen, the two finishing first and second, respectably clear of the rest of the pack. McRae and the Subaru team were delighted by their victory, but the satisfied looks on the faces of the Toyota people indicated that they, too, were more than pleased, especially as they knew that the car’s engine had been adjusted so that sheer power was sacrificed somewhat to give increased reliability.
Eriksson discovered on the first day of proper special stages that his car’s gearing was slightly too low, especially on two stages which were very fast. Later, a less than firm brake pedal was discovered to have been caused by a hydraulic fluid lead from a master cylinder. Burns felt unhappy with his steering, whilst Dunkerton lost some time due to punctures. He was using Yokohama tyres which had none of the anti-deflation inserts available to Michelin and Pirelli users.
Ordynski had a scare when an under-bonnet fire began, but this was soon put out and there was some relief when it was found to have been caused by no more serious a mishap than a dipstick tube which leaked oil on to the hot turbocharger housing.
Mitsuo Maeshima put his Impreza off the road for a while, whilst Masao Kamioka’s similar car stopped when its turbocharger packed up.
McRae seemed to have no trouble staying ahead of Kankkunen, although the Finn seemed just as pleased as the Scot at the end. De Mevius was the best placed 2wd driver at the end, in ninth overall, and the Opel Belgium team was overjoyed to emerge just four points behind Skoda in the world series for that category. Triner’s was the second 2wd car, but team-mate Sibera left the road and did not finish. G P
Telecom Rally Australia – September 16-19 1994
1 Colin McRae – Derek Ringer (GB) Subaru Impreza 555, GpA 5h 13m 50s
2 Juha Kankkunen (SF) – Nicky Grist (GB) Toyota Celica 4wd, GpA 5h 13m 59s
3 Kenneth Eriksson – Staffan Parmander (SF) Mitsubishi Lancer Ev2, GpA 5h 17m 40s
4 Possum Bourne Tony- Sircombe (NZ) Subaru Impreza 555, GpA 5h 19m 07s
5 Richard Burns – Robert Reid (GB) Subaru Impreza 555 (GB) 5h 20m 59s
6 Ross Dunkerton – Fred Gocentas (AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Ev2, GpA 5h 38m 55s
7 Ed Ordynski – Mark Stacey (AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Ev1, GpN 5h 44m 33s
8 David Officer – Kathryn Officer Mitsubishi Lancer Ev1, GpN 5h 55m 36s
9 Grégorie de Mevius / Willy Lux (B) Opel Astra GSi, GpA 5h 55m 38s
10 Karamjit Singh – Ron Teoh (MAL) Proton Wira Turbo 4wd, GpN 5h 57m 53s
74 starters – 46 finishers