Story and photos by Vince Johnson
December’s annual motorsport festival in South Australia’s capital kicked off on the 4th with the Adelaide Rally scrutineering and drivers’ briefings. Parc Ferme was at the Wayville Showgrounds and competition cars left on Wednesday for seven closed-road special stages south of the city. Entries in the Competition category were split into classic and modern classes. Within the Classic Competition class, crews also competed for the Heritage Trophy, with a handicap system based on each car’s actual engine capacity and the vehicle’s standard, unmodified weight.
Competitors in the Challenge category, open to 2wd and 4wd classic and modern cars, were released at 30-second intervals with sub-category awards for fastest time. This group had a maximum speed limit of 130kph, with time penalties applying. From Thursday the untimed Tour groups joined in.
There were eight stages on each of the next two days, followed by a Friday evening regroup at Victoria Park, home of the Australian Formula 1 races from 1985-95 and last year’s Adelaide Motorsport Festival sprints. From here the Rally cars made their way to the city’s Gouger Street restaurant strip, where the public joined the street party. The following day many took the opportunity to meet the crews again at Saturday’s lunch stop at the National Motor Museum, Birdwood in the north-east hills, or headed into town for the Rally’s final stage on Rundle Road in the city’s East End.
In the Tour groups, Michael Talladira’s tribute to the late Niki Lauda was hard to miss, his Ferrari 308GT4’s colour scheme echoing that of the factory’s mid-seventies 312 F1 cars. Australia’s 1980 F1 World Champion, Alan Jones, had a new McLaren 720S Spider to enjoy and also attracting attention, especially in Gouger Street, was Ray Eastwood’s 1957 Mercedes Benz 220SL.
Last year’s Tour experience in his Lancia had whetted Roger Buratto’s appetite for more of a contest. He did just that, importing a rally spec 1988 Delta HF Integrale from the UK and entering it in the Challenge category, returning his 1994 Evo 2 to more sedate street duty. Modern class honours went to the Justin Perkins/Andrew Brabbins 2015 Subaru WRX Sti, while Steven Hevera and Stuart Cavill (1983 Porsche 911SC) took the Classic class win.
It’s not often you see a rally car which started life as an ordinary Fiat 126-based Polish Niki competing against RS Porsches, Nismo Nissans and a Dodge Viper. Mike Lowe and Kerry Chevis can be relied on to try things differently. Starting with a rust-free shell, a full FIA rollcage, seats and harnesses were fitted, along with a genuine Group 2 Rally body kit, as used by the FSM Poland works team of the time. The original 650cc 21bhp engine had to go and in its place is a 998cc Yamaha R1 putting out 150 bhp. When asked “Why?” Mike’s answer was straightforward: “Well, why not? It’s not another ‘Mitsi-ubaru’!”
“The plan was always to keep the car rear-engined, using my 1964 Berlina Corsa as a model. The 126 has an identical track and wheelbase and they weigh the same so it uses Abarth BC suspension, brakes, wheel sizes and tyres. The engine weighs 10kg less than the one in my 110bhp BC and drives through an Elite Racing reversing transaxle that integrates forward/reverse/diff/drop gears into one compact unit. This means we have two gear levers: one on the floor to select forward or reverse and a column-mounted one for the six-speed bike ‘box. And yes, this means I also have six reverse gears!”
Understandably, Mike and Kerry didn’t figure highly in the Modern Competition results but that was not the intention.
“This was the car’s first event and we had many issues including losing first gear, destroying a clutch, the throttle jamming open and wrong spring rates. But we finished! We saw 165km/h at one point so it certainly is, umm, interesting! It has huge potential and judging by the public’s response, we’ll be back!”
On hills roads more noted for their corners than long straights, outright bragging rights deservedly went to John and Janet Ireland’s 2017 Dodge Viper Extreme. In Classic Competition, Michael Busby and Damian Reed’s 1985 Mazda RX7 took both the class and the Heritage Trophy.
Back in town entrants completed the final Rundle Road slalom stage, pausing under the Event Arch for their finishers’ medal. The public was treated to a close-up view of the street version of Brabham’s new BT62 racer, now being built at Elizabeth, north of the city where until recently Australia’s Holden cars had been produced. Its racing brother, fresh from a maiden win at Brands Hatch (UK) in November, was already out at The Bend Motorsport Park, 100km from the city at Tailem Bend on the River Murray, ready for the rest of the weekend.
With thanks to Mike Lowe, Roger Buratto and John Lemm.
Full results at