Team News

Richie rockets to championship lead after Bega Rally win

Shamrock Motorsport’s Richie Dalton has taken a hard-fought victory in the Bega Valley Rally to move into the lead of the New South Wales Rally Championship.

Dalton and co-driver, Dale Moscatt, overcame a few curveballs to put their Toyota Yaris AP4 at the top of the leaderboard after two days and 13 special stages.

The popular Bega Valley Rally is an Australian rallying classic. Once a round of the national championship, the rally uses the fast and flowing shire road stages in the region, making it a competitor favourite.

Dalton took the lead on the third stage of the rally, and while he was able to maintain that advantage for most of the rally, it wasn’t without its challenges.

“On stage four we almost took out a huge kangaroo when in sixth gear. It would have destroyed the car,” Dalton said.

“Then on stage seven and eight we got slowed down in the diabolical dust in the night stages which cost us the lead.

“We also had a rose joint break on the gear shifter on stage eight, leaving us stuck in fourth gear for the remaining 15 kilometres of the night stages.”

Sunday was a more trouble free affair for Dalton, Moscatt and the Toyota Yaris AP4. They were fastest on three of the day’s five stages to run out 11.2 second winners over Riley Walters in a Subaru Impreza WRX.

The victory has rocketed Dalton to the lead in the NSW Rally Championship by 11 points, despite missing the first round of the series in March.

Victories at the Rally of the Bay and at Bega has given the Sydney-based Irishman a slender lead over Mitsubishi driver Tim Wilkins, with Walters a further three points back in third place.

With just the Rally of Canberra to come in November, it puts Dalton in with a real chance to win his first state title.

“If the car stays reliable and I drive sensibly it’s a real possibility,” he said.

“I need to finish third or better in the three heats in Canberra to take out the title, while Tim (Wilkins) and Riley (Walters) would have to win all heats.”

The Yaris AP4 is likely to enter both the NSW and Australian Rally Championship components of the Canberra event in order to maximise the chances of victory.

“Initially I was going to just enter the state rally, but after talking to Riley (Walters), he entered the NSWRC event only last year and got caught badly in downpours, which cost him time.

“If it’s a dry rally, bull dust could also be an issue to cope with, so it will be safer to enter the ARC rally,” he explained.

“I’ll also have a very good road position compared to the other NSW competitors, which should work to my advantage.”

Winning the NSW Rally Championship title would be the perfect ending to 2023 for Dalton, who finished a brilliant third outright in last year’s Australian Rally Championship.

Still, there’s plenty of water to go under the bridge between now and the end of the Rally of Canberra, so he’s not getting too far ahead of himself yet.

“Rallying can be a fickle sport, and the simplest thing can cost you victory. Hopefully we can have a clean run and the result will take care of itself.”

The Rally of Canberra will be held in the forests around the nation’s capital on November 18 and 19.

Photos: Wishart Media