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Defying my Bulahdelah Jinx (see more about this below) it was good to be back amongst the gum trees and see some familiar country from my competing days. The event was run by the Nissan Datsun Drivers' Club, and was Round 3 of the TechWorkz Clubman Rally Series, Development Rally Series, Premier Panel Beating Hyundai Rally Series and the SpeedMaster Open Rally Series. The Supplementary Regulations for the event can be seen by clicking on the picture on the right.
The event was based at the Bulahdelah Showground. Unfortunately, camping was not allowed as rain in the previous few days had turned the grounds into a swamp. Apart from that the location was excellent, with plenty of level ground for service facilities, although competitors had to also avoid the boggy parts of the grounds. Food was available all day from the 1st Bulahdelah Scouts, and this is their major fund raising event for the year so everyone was encouraged to buy drinks and snacks. The Bulahdelah Bowling Club next door provided welcome after-event drinks and food.
Complaining about things is a tradition in rallies probably going back to the Redex trials of my youth, so even the perfect weather had people mentioning the temperature in the morning. As my phone was telling me that it was 8°C colder back at my place in Oberon I just responded with talk of shorts and t-shirts.
Unless you are really familiar with the forests being used, can read a map and know how to find your way in and out without using blocked roads, good spectator instructions are essential whether you are watching a rally for the first time, a regular spectator or someone trying to find a good place to get photos and video for the media. Unfortunately the 7.2 kilometre road into the spectator point was a little rough and might have deterred some people, but all was forgiven when you finally got there. The video was taken as I left the spot late in the day. The camera was firmly fixed in the car, so all the vibration is the car bouncing over rocks and other irregularities in the road.
The rally was run over five competitive stages. The roads I saw all looked to be in excellent condition without any rough patches to break cars. (Barry Ferguson, nine times NSW Rally Champion, two times Southern Cross Rally winner, once told me that there are no rough roads, only rough drivers. He was right.)
Because of the way the rally used the forests it was a reasonable guess that the best place to take photos would be the official spectator point. This proved to be correct, and there were several places within easy walking distance with the possibility of getting good shots of cars doing exciting things. Because the road in was a bit daunting (see above), I decided after looking at it that I would stop for lunch first and then go in for the second time the cars went by. I eventually drove in about 90 minutes before the first car was due to arrive, allowing time for some conversation with other people waiting at the spectator point.
And that's when the Bulahdelah Jinx that I mentioned before struck. In 2017 I almost got to a rally at Bulahdelah but some damage to the car meant that I had to abandon the trip and go home. This time, after waiting for almost two hours the leading car arrived. But that was it, because the second car on the road managed to get stuck in a creek, blocking the road for all the following cars. I therefore managed to photograph exactly one car in competition (but at least I got two shots of it). It was too late to get to anywhere else to take photos on the remaining stage, so I went back to the service park. So, in 2017 I managed to photograph zero cars and in 2018 the number increased to one. I'll be back on another occasion to see if I can catch more, but if the number turns out to be only two I'll stick to rallies in other places.
There were 37 entrants, two of whom failed to start. Of the remaining 35, 23 were classed as official finishers. The number of non-finishers might seem high but seems to be about the average for events these days. As is usual for rallies, the medical staff had little to do all day. It might look like a dangerous game but there are a lot of rules in place to make it as safe as possible, and these rules are changed occasionally to make it even safer.
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