THE 2021 Ingham Toyota Forest Rally is back and ready to put Ingham on the map, with drivers coming from all over the region for the one-day event this Saturday 7 August.
Drivers and crews from Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Mount Isa and as far south as Rockhampton are expected to take part in this year’s rally, with 15 competitors hitting the track for what is set to be an action-packed day of racing.
The rally kicks off at the Long Pocket Country Women’s Association (CWA) Hall beside the Ashton Hotel where the first car will head off on the course at 9.30 am, racing stages through Long Pocket, Lannercost State Forest and Broadwater.
Townsville City Autosports Club is hosting the event which has been in planning since last year’s Broadwater Rally and the club is passionate about making it an annual event and attracting drivers from all over the country.
Event coordinators Ian Gough and Greg Van Dinter said the event was more than just a rally race.
It is about showcasing the Ingham region, which has world famous attractions and some of the ‘best rally roads’ in the country.
Ingham local Mr Gough said: ‘Drivers are going to experience some of the best rally roads in the country.
‘This is not just coming from a very biased old Inghamite, but from the likes of Ross Dunkerton and Simon Jansen, winners of multiple events around the world and Australia.
‘They rate the roads around Ingham as some of the best they’ve seen.’Ian Gough, Forest Rally Event Coordinator.
A lot has gone in to preparing for the rally which involves volunteers, officials, drivers, mechanics, and support crews.
Mr Gough said: ‘Quite a bit is involved in organising a rally like this.
‘We started planning the day after last year’s Broadwater Rally. It’s the same for all sporting events organised by volunteers.
‘We’ve come up almost every weekend for the last month or so, checking the roads, removing trees that have fallen over [the track], writing up what’s called the “Road Book”, which is the book that tells the drivers where to go.
‘Each car brings with it a driver and navigator and typically the families as well, plus service crews and officials, so there’s going to be 100 to 200 people involved on the day.
‘Some will drive in and out on the same day, but many stay overnight in hotels in town, of course getting great coffee and food from Karen and the crew at JK’s Café.’
Mr Gough, who is also racing on the day, explained the track in detail, outlining the twists and turns of the 300 kilometre plus course giving a taste of what the drivers will experience during the race.
He said: ‘The stages vary with 120 kilometres of very fast, competitive parts and 195 kilometres of the transport, slower parts totally 315 kilometres for the day.
‘We [the drivers] “transport”, that is, drive to the speed limit, up Stone River Road to Liborios Road, where the road is closed for the day and once we get to the checkpoint there, we wait for the officials to give the five, four, three, two, one countdown, then it’s blast off.
‘We race as fast as we can through what’s called the “stage” until we get to the end of Liboriors Road when we cross what’s called a “Flying Finish”, then we stop at the official’s tent, where they tell us how long we took to do the stage.
‘After that, we slowly drive along the bitumen on Wallaman Falls Road until we get to the Lannercost State Forest, where we turn off, wait for the officials to give us the five to one countdown and we blast off again through the Lannercost Forest until we end up at the back of Long Pocket, where we stop, get our times, then drive slowly to Broadwater Forest, where the next stage is.
‘We race through it, then stop before getting to Hawkins Creek Road, then do it all again another two times.’
Drivers will complete the course three times during the day, which will include both tight technical sections that will challenge the competitors to stay on the road, along with fast flowing sections where speeds could exceed 200 kilometres per hour.
‘The roads themselves are all gravel, we don’t race on bitumen, so the cars are sliding sideways all the time, with smiles three feet wide on all the drivers, navigators and spectators.’Ian Gough, Forest Rally Event Coordinator.
Spectators can get in on all the action and are encouraged to get along and watch from the spectator point at the corner of Jocks Lodge Road and Manor Creek Road at Broadwater.
Mr Gough said: ‘There will be a spectator point with lots of action there as the rally cars come past.
‘We had up to 70 people watching there last year, so it should be great – hat and sunscreen are a must.
‘We normally also get people watching from their front yard as we go past. We just did an event at Gympie last month and had people waving at us as we went past all day.’
To compete in the rally, drivers must be over 18, a member of a car club and have cars that meet the Motorsport Australia requirements, which include a roll cage and racing seat belts.
Mr Gough said: ‘Cars must go through a safety check that’s called scrutineering, where qualified mechanics go over almost every nut and bolt in the car to make sure everything is correct, only then is the car allowed to compete in the event.’
Final and thorough checks are being made to the track this week to ensure the road is safe and ready for the race.
Mr Gough said: ‘The track was checked over last Saturday, by two Motorsport Australia officials that we drove the whole course with, twice.
‘We will check it the day prior to the event, and then it gets checked before every stage by one of the club officials, just to make sure a tree etc hasn’t fallen onto the track before the first car comes through.’
Before last year’s event the car rally stopped running annually for several years.
Mr Gough said: ‘The first rally was held during the mid-1990s. It stopped running annually about six or seven years ago, but we did a small rally at Broadwater Forest last year.
‘Now with the great support of key people, it’s kicked off again and we aim for it to be an annual event from now on, hopefully for the next 100 years plus.
‘The event wouldn’t be going ahead without Mouse and Steph Masters, Julie and Jeff Renouf, HQ Plantations, and the Hinchinbrook Shire Council.
‘Mayor Jayo has been great, along with Councillor Mary Brown, Carol Fulton, Roslyn DiMauro, Peter Elortegui, Marion Martin and James Stewart.
‘Also, Ross and Marty from QPWS, Ray Marbelli from Timrith Transport, Brody Romano from Long Pocket Earthmoving and we must thank our sponsors, Ingham Toyota who are the major sponsors of the event and Brakeforce who are sponsoring all the trophies.
‘And the team from the CWA Long Pocket are doing all the event catering from the hall on the day.’
Townsville City Autosports Club is the main rally club north of Brisbane and started the rally due to the great quality roads in the Ingham area and the great service that was always appreciated at the Ashton pub.
In the future Mr Gough hopes the event will attract the best 30 or 40 cars in the state and include interstate drivers, making it an event on the rally car racing national calendar.
Growing up in Lannercost himself, Ian Gough said: ‘This year’s rally is only a “local” event, so isn’t attracting interstate competitors, but we hope to get to that level in the future, then we can really showcase our region Wallaman Falls, Broadwater, Hinchinbrook Island, Tyto.
‘Last year we had our trophy presentation with everyone in the water at Broadwater and when the photo was shared it went viral in the rallying community worldwide, as it was apparently the first time in history that trophies had been handed out – in the water.
‘It’s this sort of publicity that we’re trying to generate for Ingham, so people around Australia and around the world see the beauty that we have to offer and come and stay for a day, or a while.’