West Australian rally driver Darren Windus claimed the final spot on the podium at his home event after guiding his Neal Bates Motorsport (NBM) Corolla S2000 to third place in the second round of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC).
Windus claimed a stage win and finished third overall in the Quit Forest Rally behind championship protagonists Scott Pedder and Simon Evans after claiming third in Heat 1 and fourth in Heat 2.
The local driver, returning for his first rally since the corresponding event last year, was quickly on the pace and entered into an event-long battle with young gun Ryan Smart who has stepped up to an ex-NBM Corolla Group N (P) for season 2010.
Windus and Smart traded stage times across the Busselton-based event, but it was Windus who emerged third overall after a count back was needed to separate them at the end of the rally.
Equal on points, Windus was awarded the final place on the podium as he proved 18 seconds faster on accumulated time in his naturally-aspirated Corolla.
The local driver was pleased with his return and is now considering additional outings in the Corolla S2000, despite the deal initially being for only one event.
“I was a bit rusty, given I haven’t driven a rally for 12 months – and it didn’t help to have the test day before the event washed out,” Windus said.
“This put us further back as we didn’t have any knowledge of the Kumho control tyres until the first stage. But the NBM guys worked with us to change that at the first service on Saturday and after that we were right.
“Despite our steep learning curve and the fact I overshot a corner early in Heat 2 and lost half a minute, we still managed a podium.”
Windus enjoyed battling with Smart and having NBM team boss Neal Bates on hand to help him get up to speed.
“It was good to have Neal on board because after testing was washed out I was able to bounce things off him, and he helped adapt our set-up and that made the difference,” Windus said.
“The podium has spurred me on and I want to try to put something together for more rounds, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Four-time ARC champion Bates was pleased to see one of his current cars fighting so closely with one of his former machines. He praised Windus on his efforts to reach the podium, especially in light of his recent lack of rallying.
Australian Rally Championship
Quit Forest Rally
1) Scott Pedder – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo
2) Simon Evans – Subaru Impreza WRX
3) Darren Windus – Toyota Corolla S2000
4) Ryan Smart – Toyota Corolla Group N (P)
5) Nathan Quinn – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo