The 2008 Classic Adelaide finished in extraordinary circumstances with Porsche driver Bill Pye winning the outright Late Classic category after a late drama cost Kevin Weeks almost certain victory yesterday.
Weeks, the 2007 winner with co-driver Bec Crunkhorn, finished an agonizing 2.8 seconds behind Pye after he had dominated four days and more than 250 kilometers of special-stage racing.
He was closing on a win when he followed rallying protocol and stopped to assist another competitor who had run off the road on the second-last stage of the event, Clarendon.
Rally rules provide a formula to calculate a “derived” time in such circumstances, which is representative of the driver’s performance in previous stages, and that awarded to Weeks was enough to relegate him to second.
Weeks immediately lodged a protest over the decision, but it was dismissed by event stewards. Weeks then lodged an appeal with the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport against the stewards’ decision. The appeal is still pending.
“Motor sport is cruel, but I’ve got broad enough shoulders to wear it,” Weeks said. “I just love the event and I love motor sport, so we’ll get over it.”
In a further shock, the third and fourth-placed finishers Ian Wilson (Triumph) and Tim Possingham (Nissan) were excluded as a result of post-event technical inspections, lifting the veteran Jim Richards into third spot.
The only drama in the Competition-Classic victory of Cameron Wearing and Ben Fitzsimons was purely sporting.
The Adelaide pair, in a Ford Capri Perana V8, waged an intense battle with Porsche crew Rick Bates and Jenny Brittain throughout the rally, the overall gap between them at times as little as 0.8 sec.
Bates clean-swept the first two days and never gave up after Wearing overtook him mid-Saturday; the 32.3 sec. margin at the end hardly reflected the closeness of the competition, which reprised their 2007 duel that had lasted until Bates crashed.
“That was a good fight – we drove hard and it was a legitimate win this time after Rick and Jenny crashed last year,” an excited Wearing said.
“We’re very proud to have competed with people of the caliber of Rick and Jenny right to the end. After Rick won the first two days, we decided to drop the hammer yesterday and quite frankly went for it. We set the fastest time of any car in the rally, including the Late Classic boys, on the Macclesfield stage yesterday (Saturday). It was absolutely thrilling.”
The Competition-Historic category was won by Melbourne’s John Lawson in one of the most exotic and valuable classics of the event, a supercharged 1938 Alfa Romeo Mille Miglia roadster.
Lawson purchased the car 25 years ago from Argentina and has driven it more than 90,000 kilometers, including the highway run from Melbourne last week to participate in Classic Adelaide.
Classic Adelaide attracted more than 220 cars, including a strong contingent of Ferraris. Three of the Italian supercars were brought by their owners from Hong Kong, another came from England and many more from parts of Australia.
Mercedes-Benz, which has participated officially in every Classic Adelaide, entered a total of eight cars and brought some of its crew from the United States.
High-profile international media visitors included the editor of England’s Octane classic car magazine, Robert Coucher. “That was an absolutely super rally. The organization was fantastic and I have never come across such friendly marshalls,” said Mr. Coucher who drove a classic Mercedes- Benz 230SL. I just can’t believe how pretty Adelaide and the areas near Adelaide are. The rally is right on the doorstep and makes it very easy to compete.”
The 2009 Classic Adelaide is scheduled for November 18-22. It will be the finale of the newly-announced Australian Classic Tarmac Rally Championship for pre-1982 cars, which also includes Classic Adelaide’s sister event, the Suncoast Classic, in Queensland on July 22-26.
For the complete 2008 Classic Adelaide photo gallery, click here.
2008 Classic Adelaide Results
Late Classic (1972-1990)
1. Bill Pye/Grant Geelan (NSW, 1974 Porsche 911 RS)
2. Kevin Weeks/Bec Crunkhorn (SA, 1975 Porsche 911 RS) 2.8 sec. behind leader
3. Jim Richards/Barry Oliver (Vic., 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo Cup) 1 min. 50.7 sec. behind leader
1. Cameron Wearing/Ben Fitzsimons (SA, 1971 Ford Capri Perana)
2. Rick Bates/Jenny Brittain (ACT, 1971 Porsche 911) 32.8 sec. behind leader
3. Peter Ulrich/Sari Ulrich (NSW, 1963 Jensen CV8) 6 min. 27.2 sec. behind leader
1. John Lawson/Andrew Lawson (Vic, 1938 Alfa Romeo)
2. Bernie O’Shannessy/Tony Borbridge (Vic., 1929 Chrysler Roadster) 6 hrs 17 min. 28.5 sec. behind leader