2014 National Rally – WA

The Nationals for 2014 are over and all who attended considered it a resounding success. There were 106 registered participants although some of the 56 Western Australians were part time, and the full timers numbered about 80. The South Australian contingent was 10 registered participants, although due to the serious car accident that Stephen Wade suffered en route, there were only 9 of us Croweaters at the rally.

The Nationals were held at the Swan Valley, Novatel Vines Resort, a fantastic location less than 25km from the centre of Perth, however in a beautiful semi-rural setting surrounded by vineyards and wineries and with two championship golf courses and several hundred kangaroos at the resort.

Our first event was the welcome dinner at the resort on Saturday which was a great night, only soured by the sad news of Stephen’s accident.  All the participants signed a card for Stephen which I have hand delivered to him at the RAH.  It was however still a great night with a spring theme, bringing out the best of the creativity of several of the rally delegates.

On Sunday we all washed and polished our cars and headed south to the historic town of Guildford, where TSOA and the Triumph Car Club of WA for the “Quit All Triumph and Standard Day”, a show and shine with around 100 Triumph cars on display. Although there was light misty rain most of the day, there was still a great turnout of spectators looking at the cars on display and a fabulous range of Triumphs of all types, including a TR7 and a Stag both fitted with new 6 litre Holden V8s.  These would not appeal to the traditionalists (Stephen W, you would be horrified) however both were engineering marvels.  Even though Noel Schmidt wasn’t there, Peter Davidge stepped up to the plate in Noel’s absence and won the P.O.O. trophy with his TR6 for the best Nationals car on display as well as the People’s Choice and Triumph Car Club awards.

We had the first “Ironman” challenge at Guildford.  For the uninitiated, all Nationals have a competition of three novelty events between states for a highly sought after national trophy. This first one was moving plastic bottles into a bucket from outside a rope barrier using three ropes and a rubber band (you need to have been there to understand it).  Our team of Peter Davidge, Sue Smithson and Neil Martin were creditable performers in this event which attracted a surprisingly large crowd of spectators from the general public.

Monday was competition day at Barbagallo race track, which was around 45 kilometres from The Vines Resort. There were 54 cars competing including 34 TSOA members in Triumphs and a range of other vehicles including several Datsun 240Z’s, a Falcon GTHO, a Monaro, a couple of Mini Coopers, a couple of Clubmans, and sundry other vehicles. There were 16 Nationals registrants competing at Barbagallo.  There were some seriously quick cars including a TR7 with a 5-litre Rover motor with 4 dual-throat Webers that must be one of the quickest TR7’s in the world (luckily not a Nationals registrant).

The morning was taken up by racing on the “short course” with a very sharp Turn 5 whereas in the afternoon, participants drove past this sharp turn for the “long course” which increased track length from 1.76km to 2.41km.  The fastest rally registrant for both courses was perennial winner Brian Falloon from Queensland in his flying TR5, however our own Neil Martin in his TR7 V8 won both events in the eight cylinder section for rally registrants.  Bryan Young in his Vittesse started well but stopping was another matter as he ran out of brakes and ended up in the gravel in the morning, and did not compete in the afternoon.

Those not going to Barbagallo were given the option of an escorted trip to Kings Park in Perth and a guided tour of the gardens.  The feedback from those attending was very good.

Tuesday saw everyone driving around 105 km north to the Monastery town of New Norcia, an absolutely fascinating settlement completely owned by Benedictine monks and having been established in 1846.  We had a guided tour of the various buildings and gained a fantastic insight into the history of the settlement, followed by an excellent lunch at the only pub owned by Benedictine monks in Australia, if not the world. This is a place which anyone passing through should spend time touring and finding out about its history. This was a definite highlight of the week.

We had a free day on Wednesday although there was the second “Ironman” event in the morning.  This was a creative golf putting event which the course pro was so impressed with that he plans to use the format in the future.  Our team of Peter and Julie Davidge, Alex Smithson and Neil Martin unfortunately did not set the world on fire, with a motley group of honorary “Tasmanians” out-putting all comers.  There are so many interesting places in the Swan Valley that the rest of the day was easily filled.  On Wednesday night we had a great wine and cheese night at the longest established winery in the Swan Valley, Olive Farm Wines.  Wines and food were excellent together with a very informative talk from the winemaker and owner, and the most impressive cheese platter most of us had ever seen.

Thursday morning saw the second motor sport event, the “Zig Zag” hill climb. This is an amazing course in the Perth Hills at Kalamunda, with views of the Perth CBD but in a bush environment.  The course is normally a public road which was originally a railway line which scaled Gooseberry Hill, with a series of switchbacks, one so sharp that some contestants needed to do a three point turn.  The road was closed for the event and each contestant had three runs, driving back through residential streets to the bottom each time to start again. Spectators were able to walk through the bush to watch various parts of the track.  Again, while Brian from Queensland was the fastest Nationals participant, Neil Martin won the trophy for the fastest eight cylinder, and Bryan Young’s Vitesse also performed very well.

After lunch we had the last “Ironman” event, where two cars from each state had to drive around a series of cones with a football balancing on the bonnet.   Our two teams of Bryan Young and Peter Davidge and Alex and Sue Smithson both unfortunately had a ball drop during their heats and did not finish in the top three.

Friday was the observation run, a challenging course of around 90km through the Perth Hills and ending up for lunch at the Parkerville Tavern. The run had a range of challenges and we travelled through some spectacular countryside with clues all being whilst driving along the way.  Our teams did quite well however we missed the skills of Roger and Cherri Lange and Ian and Raelene Rigby who between them seem to win these events whenever they are competing. WA teams took out all the places, with the winners being the rally conveners, Ron and Leigh Marian who, we were assured, had no prior knowledge of the course or questions.

Our final day was a brunch at “The Mallard Duck”, a very attractive restaurant overlooking a lake where the TSOA Nationals choir once again sang the Greg Bird (from Queensland) composed and conducted Nationals Theme Song, and later our presentation dinner.  As well as Neil Martin being one of the standout trophy winners, he and Bryan Young were able to get SA to 2nd place in the motor sport combined total, behind WA which had a team of six participants. Peter Davidge also took away all the Pride of Ownership trophies on offer however we were unfortunately unplaced in the Ironman trophy which was won overall by the team from NSW.   We danced the night away to a surprisingly good Neil Diamond tribute singer who was originally from SA and clearly was a very keen Norwood supporter.

Breakfasts each day were at the resort (other than the day of the brunch), and we had evening meals most nights either at the resort or at other restaurants in the Swan Valley area, all of which were of very good quality.

The week was absolutely fantastic, and whilst the interstate contingent was comprised of people who are regular Nationals attendees, we met a lot of new people from the WA TSOA club, which although relatively small in number of members has a very high participation rate.  Everyone made us feel very welcome and we all made new friends over the week. The organising committee, particularly Ron and Leigh Marian did a great job of making sure the week ran very smoothly, and everyone in the club really pulled their weight to make it such a great event.

On the last night, Peter Wards from NSW gave a presentation on next year’s Nationals to be held in Bathurst from 30th October to 7th November 2015. Again this will be a great program in such an iconic location, and we are already looking forward to attending.  Then of course it is our turn in 2016, and under the leadership of John Frick, we are already making great headway into planning this event.  If it is anywhere near as successful as the WA Nationals this year, it will be an event not to be missed.

Alex Smithson

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