The Repco Rally Team have completed yet another successful Rally Australia and have come away with not only a 2nd place podium position but have also increased their championship lead to 68 points2.
The event began well for Mick and Bernie with a solid performance in the Power Stage on the Thursday morning, however the true test would come on the Friday when teams set out to tackle the fast flowing shire roads near Macksville, 80km south of Coffs Harbour.
The first 3 stages of the morning loop were completely new stages, many likened them to the fast flowing roads that are the Nambucca stage which is run on Saturday, after the morning loop Mick and Bernie were performing well and in 3rd place overall against a strong 4WD field.
The team needed to perform well in the afternoon to keep the momentum going into a shortened Saturday program, and that they did, they improving their times considerably to the morning’s loop and ended the day in 3rd place overall with almost a minute gap to 4th position.
As mentioned the Saturday program was shortened due to the full WRC program and only one pass of the TV stage Valla would be completed.
Heat 2 saw Justin Dowel DNF from the event, this gave the team a little more breathing room in terms of the championship standings, the day was long however, with two passes of the long Nambucca stage and back to back anything could happen and the overall lead changed, Mick and Bernie put in yet another solid drive and with no car dramas to report they moved up into 2nd position going into the final day and only a minute behind leaders Marcus and Scott Walkem in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.
Going into the final day the team had a total of 5 stages to complete, with just over a minute gap to 1st anything could happen, a strong performance could see a Rally Australia win, all were it began in 2009. The team performed at its best, reduced the gap to first place and came away with a Heat win, however the championship points race was just as important so held their ground to equal last years Rally Australia result coming in 2nd place overall to the Walkem brothers who took the overall win.
We asked Mick how his week was.
Q: So another Rally Australia, another solid strong performance, and another 2nd place result, how was the weekend overall?
MP: We had a very clear “championship” focused event, we wanted to win however increasing our championship lead in the Australian 4WD Rally Series was our main priority. Apart from losing some time on Saturday morning, it all went smoothly.
Q: Dust was becoming a major issue with 4 minute gaps being applied how was the dust for you especially on stages like Newry Long? And Nambucca?
MP: We didn’t have any dust issues throughout the event to speak of.
Q: With a 2nd overall the car must have performed well, any issues to speak of?
MP: The Evo 10 was amazing, the team at RaceTorque prepared a very strong, fast and reliable car for us. We could have done 2 more days rallying without any issues.
Q: Coming in to the round we asked if you made any changes, how do you think the changes went? Improvement?
MP: The rear diff change before the event worked well, we swapped the original diff back on Saturday night as the Sunday stages were very different. We won leg 3 after the diff change was made, so we were very happy with that.
Q: With your nearest rivals both receiving DNF’s from the event your lead going in to the final round means you are on the cusp of winning the Australian 4WD Rally Series, how are you feeling about this? We know you are known as Mr Cool but there must be some excitement building at what could possibly lie ahead?
MP: It will come down to the last event to decide the winner, I’m super keen to get to SA and attack the stages. We rolled in 2013 and came home after testing with car issues last year. So this year we going for gold. I’ll be excited once the job is done.
Q: Will you be doing any private testing prior to RallySA in October?
MP: We will be focusing on SA only at this stage, the car will receive some more RaceTorque TLC. Bernie and I will be reviewing last years incar and analyse Rally Australia footage.
Now with just 1 round remaining the teams focus is on South Australia, an event where they have not had much luck in the past, however a series win has not been on the cards, only 19 points are whats needed to secure the win, time will tell.
Make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and here for all the latest news as the Repco Rally Team goes for the Win.
With Rally Australia just around the corner lets look back to the 2014 round where the RRT had arguably the best result in the Polo up until that point, but at the same time riding the up and down roller coaster that was to follow.
The 2014 event was one of both the highest of highs and lowest of lows, from the highs of coming 2nd to then being excluded all in less than 24hrs, then having their position reinstated after an appeal process, it was a difficult time for the team and in particular team principal and driver Mick.
Q: It was well publicised about what happened last year, coming 2d then excluded then an appeal process and being reinstated, what were your throughs at the time? Looking back some people might say you learn from times like these, do you agree?
A: It was a massive disappointment after last years event, I really questioned why I do this sport, in saying that the question was quickly answered with an amazing amount of support from my family, the rally community and my peers. With a lot of hard work we got the outcome that was deserved. It made me realise how complex behind the scenes is and I actually appreciate it a lot more now.
Q: Now almost 12 months on how are you feeling coming in to the event after having quite alot of success in the first two rounds and now leading the championship?
A: After re assessing where the team and championship was heading we have enjoyed the success this year. A lot comes from an attitude change and working with a class outfit like RaceTorque.
Q: Justin Dowell and Mark Pedder are arguably the two competitors the team and you are competing against, Justin in his i20 and Mark in his Peugeot, both not having much seat time in their cars how do you think you will fair against them at Rally Australia where endurance is the key?
A: We only ever focus on our outcomes as that’s all we can control. JD and mark have been competing at this level for many years and have a lot of experience, this only makes me more determined to do well.
Q: With such a long break between rounds have you done any testing? have you made any changes to the car? or have you simply put rallying to the side till the week prior?
A: We have had day day in our Subaru, as the evo is in Perth being prepared after a rough IROQ. We have also been watching last years in-car and the Jemba footage supplied by the event this year.
Q: How do you think you will fair this year in a new car and with new stages?
A: Really looking forward to getting back in the evo for rally oz, the car is such a pleasure to drive. We have made a few small set up changes after reviewing the season so far.
Q: Is there any pressure on you to perform at a higher level to try and capitalise on your lead and try and extend your lead going in to the last round?
A: We will stick to our formula that has gotten us to this point, once your start thinking about the outcomes first then it make it harder to achieve your goals, it’s a very structured process for us. Have had a few small moments thinking about it, but with Bernie Webb you can never get ahead of yourself.
Q: Have you given much thought to the fact in 2 rounds and 2 months time you could be an Australian Rally Champion?
A: We will be giving it our best shot and if or when we win, it will be a big celebration.
Rally Australia officially gets underway on Thursday the 10th September with the official ceremonial start, make sure you are following the team on facebook, twitter and instagram for all the latest updates.
In 2009 the Repco Rally Team’s very own Mick Patton entered a competition to win an all expenses rally drive at the Repco Rally Australia event the Australian round of the WRC.
The competition was called “The Big Bloody Rally Promotion”, Mick won the opportunity through his business Southern Automotive Service to go in to the main draw. 10 people from across Australia were drawn (2 from each state) from that main draw.
The 10 competition winners won a days driving at extremedriving.net, testing their abilities as rally drivers, from that day an eventual winner was chosen. Mick was the eventual winner, he went on to have 3 weekends of driver training and also helped prepare the car for the event, a Subaru WRX.
Mick went on to not only finish the event, but also came a credible 27th out of 45 competitors and 2nd in his class behind the winner and crazy Irishman Charlie Drake.
In 2015 Mick runs his own Rally Team in the Australian Rally Championship, his success and successful business dealings have seen him successfully secure the support of Repco since the original competition win over 6 years ago.
Now a possible new Mick Patton has emerged, Adam Bensch, 31 from Deniliquin has won a competition run by Coates Hire and Rally Australia, the “Drive of a Lifetime at Coates Hire Rally Australia”, a fully supported entry in the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship, part of the Coates Hire Rally Australia world championship round on the Coffs Coast on 10-13 September. Adam will be driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII rally car run by driver training company RallySchool.
The prize will see Adam rubbing shoulders with WRC celebrities like Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, along with Australian Champions Neal Bates and Simon Evans, an experience like no other.
With such similar stories we thought we should speak to Adam and see how he is feeling just a week from the big event.
RRT: Hi Adam, thanks for taking the time out to chat to the RRT, how are you feeling just a week away from the big event?
AB: Hi RRT. Feeling great, its been pretty busy for the last 4 weeks, as you could imagine. I can’t wait to get the rally started.
RRT: Did you know that Mick Patton was in your shoes just a few years ago, and now he is running his own team and leading the 4WD Series of the ARC, have you looked at his presence in the ARC and not help but think you might be able to end up on a similar path with such an amazing opportunity?
AB: I knew of the name watching the ARC on TV but only recently found out that Mick had gone down the same path after he had got in contact with me. He has helped me on how to approach my first rally. I am definitely aiming to travel the same path as Mick but first I must finish!
RRT: Can you tell us what you have been doing to prepare for the rally?
AB: Quite a bit of fitness and I have been driving long distances a lot which i think will help me over the 3 days of competition. Also some rally games on the Playstation.
RRT: It was mentioned on rally.com.au that you will be writing notes as well, a task that even for the top tier guys is hard at times, how have you been preparing for that? watching in-car videos?
AB: Yeah very difficult thing on my first rally. Darren Masters(co driver) will be helping me with most of the notes. He is a top driver, as well as being a great navigator, so i am very lucky to have Darren teach and take charge. I have been watching a lot of in car footage which helped as well.
RRT: How has the town of Deniliquin taken to your news?
AB: Deni has been great, there is a lot of support here. It’s such a nice community and beautiful town. We have a great car club here with a fantastic autocross track and they have been behind me all the way.
RRT: Do you plan to use this as a stepping stone to joining the ARC? is it something you are keen to pursue? with so much good publicity has anyone approached you to sponsor you?
AB: Yeah definitely, hearing Mick Patton’s story has given me that extra confidence. The people in the rally community are very supportive always offering a lending hand, it has blown me away just how nice they have been to me. I haven’t had anyone approach me as yet. I will do my best, my focus is set on finishing the rally in a reasonable position and see what comes from that. The publicity is crazy! I haven’t had anything like this happen before so i am loving every minute of it.
RRT: With RallySchool supporting you and having some of the best drivers under their banner and many many years of experience under their belt what has Mick and the team been doing with you to prepare for this huge event?
AB: Mick and the team at rallyschool.com.au have been amazing. I have had 2 weekends at RallySchool in Melbourne. The instructors there are amazing, they are so talented. They instruct with so much enthusiasm. They have helped me massively with driving and pace notes. I highly recommend getting down there and having a go!
RRT: Have you been to RA before? or driven on the roads?
AB: No I haven’t been to Rally Australia before or driven on the roads! The stages look great. They look very fast.
RRT: Is their any rally history in the Bensch family?
AB: Yeah dad has had some success in rallying through the Nissan/Datsun car club in Melbourne. Mum and Dad both competed in autocross as well as motorkhana.
Now the important questions 🙂
RRT: Where were you born?
AB: I was born in Melbourne, Box Hill
AB: Concreter and some engineering
RRT: Favourite Rally Car?
AB: The AUDI S1 or any of the Group B cars. Also the much loved Datsun 1600
RRT: Favourite Rally Driver?
AB: Australian driver has to be Simon Evans. International is Seb Loeb
RRT: Favourite international rally? (if you have watched any)
AB: Finland. I think this would be everyone’s favourite rally. To see a rally car tackle those roads the way they do is just amazing.
RRT: Favourite Rally Team website? *hint* hint* 🙂
AB: (Laughs) The RRT website looks sharp with plenty of information on team members, cars and plenty more.
RRT: Lastly any shoutouts, anyone you wish to thank
AB: A big thank you to the family at RallySchool.com.au . Channel 10’s RPM show and Rally Australia. The repco rally team for the interview Also to the great people i have met so far. And i cant forget my beautiful wife sarah she has been amazing.
RRT: Where can fans follow your adventure?
AB: Fans can follow me on my facebook page adam bensch. I will be taking lots of pictures and video which will be fun. Thanks again guys
The RRT Website team wishes Adam all the best for Rally Australia, perhaps a star of the future.
Rally Australia officially gets underway on Thursday the 10th September with the official ceremonial start, make sure you are following the team on facebook, twitter and instagram for all the latest updates.
Repco Rally Team Principal Mick Patton has recently revealed on rally.com.au that for the opening Round of the season, the Quit Forest Rally he will pilot a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X as he looks to maximize the amount of fun from his rallyingin 2015.
“Shipping a car and team to the first Round in Western Australia is always a large undertaking so when the option to drive a WA based car appeared it quickly became the obvious choice,” said Mick.
Mick and co-driver Bernie Webb will pilot the Evo X prepared by Perth based Race Torque Engineering, similar to that driven by Mark Pedder during last year’s Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
Patton said, “it would be exciting to drive the Mitsubishi in WA but it would also be his first time rallying that brand of car.”
A memorable year for the Repco Rally Team, in many ways amazing, in many ways not so, with a few rounds everyone would care to forget, needless to say its all character building, and as they say ‘Thats Rallying’.
A year in which the team would see its greatest success and that would see the Highest of Highs and also the lowest of lows, a year where a small Rally Team from Canberra would band together to compete at the highest level of rallying in Australia in a professional and enthusiastic manner no matter the outcome, a team that would work tirelessly to present and a deliver a car that would not only present well but perform at its best.
Coming in to the 2014 season Mick had high expectations, the team had worked together in 2013 to develop the VW Polo, a year that also had its ups and downs but overall a year which would give the team a good stepping stone to work off to leap into 2014. “Coming in to the early stages of 2014 our expectations were to essentially see what the new engine package would achieve with the start of our development process, we wanted to take good results from each event, finish every stage, and bring the car home in one piece bagging as many championship points along the way” said Mick
The first round of the ARC was held in Canberra, the National Capital Rally, the teams home event, there were new teams in the mix now so the competition around the team was very even.
The team had spent considerable time in the off season developing the new engine package for the VW Polo, however due to time constraints the new engine had not been tested, this however was not going to be the test for the weekend. Canberra is known for its varying conditions resulting from the ever changing weather which have been known to cause chaos, the 2014 National Capital Rally was no different.
Heat 1 was wet, it did not stop all day and on stage 2 Mick had an unfortunate encounter with a post which resulted in damage to the rear of the car and in effect having to drop 2 stages to fix the damage.
Heat 2 was much better, not only had the weather settled, the roads were more consistent and differ greatly to heat 1, Mick and Bernie were able to maintain the flow of the car, it was just a matter of finishing the event and gaining as many points for the season.
Mick commented on the team’s performance after the event, “The car is handling extremely well, the best it ever has, after a full season last year we have finally come to understand the car and are able to make changes on the fly at various events, this brings confidence to both Bernie and I, we made minimal changes to the car over the weekend, we tweaked dampener adjustments as opposed to previous events where we were always trying to get close to the sweet spots, we feel we have found it now, so its a real positive for us as a team moving forward.” said Mick.
The final results saw the team finish in 5th position outright, bagging a healthy 42 points going into Round 2 the QUIT Forest Rally
Coming in to the second round and arguably the favourite for all teams the QUIT Forest rally in Western Australia would see the Repco Rally Team Polo with improvements from canberra with re the restrictor so the top speed limitations where no more.
After a successful start at the Trade Hire Busselton Super Special Stage at the opening of the rally on the Friday night, Mick and Bernie were excited going in to the forest stages of Heat 1, however disaster struck, on the second stage of the day (Ferndale) an apparent electrical fire caused major damage resulting in the teams forced withdrawal from the remainder of the event.
The result was a major disappointment for the team, however they did manage to get out on stage and watch their rivals tear through the forests, Mick even managed to grab our team photographers camera, lets just say we don’t think Michael has much to worry about :).
The team had a long break before the next round of the championship where they headed to Queensland for the International Rally of Queensland.
After the fire in the last round and the 2nd fire in as many years the team needed to dig deep for the 3rd round and the International Rally of Queensland (IROQ).
“The fire in WA really put us behind where we wanted to be, to lose an entire weekend was so frustrating. So coming into Queensland we really wanted to pick up where we left off.” said Mick
The team enjoyed their first relatively disaster free event, an issue late into the first day was the only setback. The turbo dump pipe cracked blowing exhaust heat on to the firewall, this melted paint and resulted in smoke in the cabin, after the disaster that was Western Australia the team took no chances and skipped the last two stages of the day to source the problem and fix it, the heat also managed to melt a gearbox mount, both easy fixes during service and the team was back on the road for Heat 2.
The team however identified a key area in which their VW Polo was struggling, the gearbox. While it is the same six-speed sequential gearbox the car was fitted with last season, the change from the two-litre, normally aspirated engine to this year’s turbo-charged engine has significantly affected the gear ratios.
“We always knew that was something we needed to change, but in order of priorities we always knew that there were other areas of the car that needed to be worked on first.” Mick said.
At the Power Stage, which featured an incredibly long straight, the TV crew reported that Scott Pedder clocked the top speed at approximately 185km/h, in comparison the Repco Rally Team Polo reached a top speed all weekend of 162km/h.
“We knew we had some work to do on our gear ratios.” Mick said. “Unfortunately with what we currently have we’re limited to a top speed of about 160 kilometres an hour.”
“It’s all about the power and the torque of the turbo engine compared to the old engine last year. I think last year we had good top speed, but now that the engine is producing power in different places effectively we’ve lost 1st gear, in fact we start most stages now in 2nd gear!”
Heading to the next Round in South Australia, an event renowned for its super fast shire roads, the team is determined to overcome the gearbox hurdle to unleash some top end speed from his VW.
“With the help of Neal Bates Automotive, they are helping us work out the internals of the gearbox and what ratios we will put into it which will help us get that top end speed.”
“The aim will be to have that sorted by the time we get to those fast roads in South Australia but it will all depend on just how quickly parts can be sourced out of Sadev in France. But that’s definitely the plan!”
The team finished round 3 in 5th overall, but more importantly the car came back to their Canberra HQ in one piece.
Stay tuned for the rest of the season in review next week.
As the dust settled from the most successful event for the team since joining the Australian Rally Championship and after an emotional event prior in South Australia the team celebrated as they came in 2nd place at the event that started it all.
A gruelling 3 days of competition with over 350km of competitive stages came to a close on Sunday afternoon in more ways than one, the result had just sunk in when the compulsory post event scrutineers came to the teams tent to do their mandatory checks, unbenounced to the team within minutes the celebrations would turn to heartache, the official ruling:
Car No./Driver: Car #84, Mick Paton
Session: Post-event scrutiny
Facts: Car #84 was checked by the scrutineers at post-event scrutiny and was found not to have an operational catalytic converter as required by Article 6.1(a) of the Group G2 Technical Regulations.
Offence: Breach of NCR 183(i) – participation in a competition of an automobile found to be ineligible therefore;
Decision: Car #84 is excluded from the Event.
Fortunately after an appeal process with the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), the decision has been overturned, and the teams result stands and they have been reinstated with the second place result.
Mick had this to say: “It has been a very difficult process to go through, from the elation of finishing a very tough event in second outright, our best result in an ARC event; to the devastation of being excluded.”
“The appeal process was pretty stressful and it’s a huge relief that CAMS have made the decision to restore us in second place. There was no performance advantage gained from the converter failure, so common sense has prevailed.”
With the final Rally Australia result restored the Repco Rally Team has now moved from eighth to fifth in the Australian Rally Championship.
A positive from the event was the performance of the VW Polo. After a challenging 18 months of development, the car performed well with the service crew only required to fix a few minor issues over the gruelling three day event. “I’d like to thank the many people who helped us through the appeal process and everyone who sent us messages of support. It means a lot to have so much support,” said Patton.