Heat 2 - Rally of Melbourne 1998.

Another brilliant Melbourne day dawned cold and the battle was on from the start between the competitors in the final Super Series round for 1998. And again Possum Bourne was affected by tyre choice during the days stages when he made an incorrect choice of tyre for the 'Archeron' stage. The Kiwi crew dropped seven seconds to Neal Bates/ Coral Taylor, who took the initiative to take an eventual 20 second victory in heat 2, giving the Aussie Corolla WRC a very successful first outing.

The fine weather continued for the day, making the road conditions almost ideal for the crews, although flat tyres, presumably from sharp rocks were commonplace. Third and first Group N was again taken by Cody Crocker/ Greg Foletta in the Subaru Impreza. They finished the day 3 minutes 42 seconds behind the battling duo out front, and 13 seconds in front of fourth placed John and Damien Long in their Evo 3 Lancer. The father/son team made sure of their Wimdscreens O'Brien Privateers Cup Award for the Super Series by their results this weekend.

Young Victorian Spencer Lowndes, co driven by Claire Parker, took second in Group N in a day that was again frustrated by a lack of turbo boost in the Lancer Evo 2. The experienced heads of Graham Alexander and Dave Stewart took sixth, just pipping WA's hard charging Leigh Hynes and Jim Carlton in their Group N Impreza. Leigh thrilled spectators with his take no prisoners style, especially at the top of the 'Ben Cairn' stage. Tarmac to Dirt and Leigh attacked the dirt a little too quickly, and skated, power on , to the edge of the road, and found himself in the perfect line to straight line the hairpin and shoot off down the road. The crowd was still talking about it after the finish at the Domain Chandon winery later in the afternoon!

Rick Bates and Jenny Brittan ensured their record of four out of five ARC F2 wins for the year as Dean Herridge and Glenn Macneall lost their brakes and fifty seconds, not to mention the F2 lead four stages into the day. The luckless Dean consoled himself with third, behind the other Charade of Ross Mackenzie/ Paul van der Mey, who threw their car into the corner at 'Ben Cairn' at an incredible 161km/h, and the left rear wheel about two feet off the ground!

Ashlea James and Sue McReady finished as they had in heat 1, ahead of the rest of the Bridgestone Corolla Cup, including second placed Jason Slot/ Will Logan, who ended up only five seconds on front of Jo Cadman/ Liz Swanton. Steve Forsberg/ Lyndall Drake finished next, with Roman Watkins and Paul Flintoft experiencing oil pressure problems with their car to finish fifth.

One highlight of the day was when the only person around to move the Corolla WRC of Bates away from the front of the finish dias was Possum Bourne, who proceeded to stall it twice and then do three doughnuts on the wineries' grass! Neal retaliated by jumping into the Subaru, starting it and blasting into two quick doughnuts before spinning the car to a stop right next to his own car!

The attention of the rally fraternity now turns back to the respective state championships, and then onto Rally Australia in November, where I'm sure Neal Bates will want to exact a type of authority as he has this weekend over Possum.

Neil Blackbourn - Melbourne, 30th August 1998.

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