Peter Neal and Craig Whyburn look to seal rally series win

Peter Neal and Craig Whyburn will be looking to seal a series win in the October 28 rally, where they hope their local knowledge will come to the fore.
Peter Neal and Craig Whyburn will be looking to seal a series win in the October 28 rally, where they hope their local knowledge will come to the fore.

THE sixth and final round of the 2017 PipeKing Southern Cross Rally Series will take place on Saturday October 28 at Johns River.

The AMSAG promoted series is firmly established on the NSW rally scene with a proud 24 year history. The event will include a mix of nationally recognised competitors with State and grassroots teams. Vehicles are categorised as either classic or open.

AMSAG open series leaders Peter Neal and Craig Whyburn will bank on local knowledge in their Subaru WRX to seal a series victory. The Taree-based team has been a model of consistency so far, but will need to fend off spirited challenges from Bathurst’s Ian Plenderleith and Sydney’s Chris Jacques to take the title. Both Plenderleith and Jacques have found stage winning speed in their Mitsubishi Lancers, but Peter Neal is an experienced competitor who will be difficult to overcome in his own backyard. Despite his youth, Newcastle driver Jake Bramble looms as a dark horse in his Nissan GtiR.

The fast, flowing roads around Taree are favourites with the crews, and organisers have set a course of 150 competitive kilometres. A day-night format will further test the driving and navigational ability of the AMSAG rally teams.

The classic series is headed by Wagga Wagga’s Wade Ryan in a Datsun 180B with Queenslander Tom Dermody looking to claw back a points gap. Dermody (Ford Escort) has no option but to go on maximum attack if he is to emerge as an outright category winner as he will need to fend off heavy-hitters Nathan Quinn (Mazda RX2) from Coffs Harbour and Michael Valantine (Datsun 1600) from Denman to claim enough points to catch Ryan. Other notable entries include classic flyers Leigh Manning (Datsun), PJ O’Keefe (Escort), Andy Crane (Peugeot) and Peter Houghton (Datsun). This is sure to go down to the wire between Ryan and Dermody, with third placed Jason Williams (Peugeot) a possible beneficiary.

The women’s driver series is set for a showdown as well, with both Amanda Williams (Mazda GTX) and Jo Price (Subaru WRX) needing victory at this event to take the season spoils, but they will have to keep Kim Day (Toyota Celica) from Canberra at bay. The organisers have added to the female competitor awards as participation increases with an average of 10 lady drivers and co-drivers each event. Tara McIlroy will look to bounce back after a roll-over at the last round when leading. The husband and wife team have been working around the clock to make the event.

The return of stalwarts Darkie Barr-Smith (Datsun 200B) and Frank Neale (Hyundai Excel) to competitive rallying will draw some interest, as will the thundering Commodores of Wayne Caines, Mick Ellis, Col Pogson and Mick Pinckham.

Spectator information is available via www.amsag.com.au.