On RallySport Mag
Three of the Australian Rally Championship National 4WD combatants – Mike Bailey, Marcus Walkem and Guy Tyler – are expecting the pace at the front of the category to be red hot when the action kicks off in Canberra this week.
The three will each converge on the National Capital Rally from around the country. Bailey is from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, while Walkem resides on the East Coast of Tasmania, and Tyler makes the trek up from South Australia.
Bailey has been a long time competitor in the National 4WD series in his striking coloured Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, and the National Capital Rally in Canberra marks his first return since Rally Australia last season.
“We had our best result of the year in Canberra last year, after that our season kind of went down hill, so I’m definitely looking to recapture some of that form,” stated Bailey who stood on the top step of the 4WD podium at the 2014 National Capital Rally.
“We’ve completely refreshed our car from last season and we’re looking forward to the battle ahead. I really like the roads in Canberra, they offer a great mix of open and fast, and then tight and technical,” he added.
While reigning Tasmanian Rally Champion Marcus Walkem will make only the third ever ECB ARC appearance of his rally career when he arrives in Canberra for the very first time. “I did Rally Australia last year, and Rally Victoria a couple of years before that, so I’m really excited to get to Canberra,” he said.
“My aim is to try to do three or four events this year, but I’ll see how we go in Canberra before I get too far ahead of myself. I’ve never seen the roads I’ll be competing on, they are all new, but I’ve been watching videos on Youtube and they look very exciting.”
“The first day in Kowen forest looks fast and open, while the second day looks much more tight and twisty and cresty, and I’m confident all of the conditions suit me and the car,” added Walkem who will campaign an Evo IX similar to Bailey’s.
Guy Tyler, who last year fought it out in the Junior’s at the wheel of a Renault Clio, has this year made the step up to the 4WD’s having purchased the ex-Chris Atkinson Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V.
“It’s got quite a history this car,” explained Tyler. “It was originally Chris’s, then Nathan Quinn had it, then Will Orders actually won Rally Victoria in it a couple of years ago, and then it came to South Australia and ran here before I bought it.”
With such a rich heritage in the car Tyler is hoping to add to its past pedigree and in a warm up for the National Capital Rally he claimed victory on debut. “We ran the opening round of the SA Rally Championship, the Southern Rally, and dominated actually. It’s a great feeling, it gives me a lot of confidence in myself and the car heading to Canberra,” he said.
With a high quality field of 4WD competitors due to line up for the second round of the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship, all three drivers are expecting a torrid fight from the very first stage.
“It’s not often you get to compete against such a high level of competition,” said Walkem. “There are a lot of good drivers up and down the entry list. I’m not setting myself any aims but I’ll have a crack on the first day and see where I end up.”
Tyler agreed, adding: “For me it’s quite daunting actually. Everyone seems to either be in an Evo IX or a ‘Maxi’ car. I know our older Evo V doesn’t have the legs to compete on outright speed, and I can’t afford to break the car chasing people who are faster, so my plan is to pace myself and get a good result by the finish.”
Bailey, who benefited last year from retirements, is certain the new breed of 4WD’s will be fast but may also prove fragile. “New cars also equal new problems. Last year a lot of people fell off the road or blew up, so reliability is the key and that’s what I’m aiming for this weekend.”
The Australian Rally Hall of Fame Gala precedes the National Capital Rally on Thursday evening, where four-times World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen will be guest speaker. While the leading 2WD and 4WD entrants to contest the ARMOR ALL & STP Power Stage on Friday morning including Bailey, Walkem and Tyler.