THE National Capital Rally’s Mineshaft Special Stage is one which boasts an infamous history and on Saturday Bathurst driver Leigh Gotch added to its legend as his Subaru got airborne, crashed into the bank and rolled onto its side.
While Gotch and his co-driver John McCarthy avoided injury and the footage of their incident which had been posted online racked up a large number of hits, it ended the chances the Bathurst talent had of a class victory in the Australian Rally Championship season opener.
“We worked pretty hard on the car last night, but there’s a bent drive shaft and broken strut top we couldn’t get fixed in time. It is pretty much just cosmetic, but yeah, unfortunately we had to withdraw,” Gotch said yesterday morning
“I am pretty gutted.”
Gotch and McCarthy were contesting the 4WD class in their Subaru Impreza WRX Sti and made a good start on Saturday morning.
In the opening Oakey Special Stage they were the second quickest, finishing 40.1 seconds down on the leading Mitsubishi Lancer VII.
Then it was on to the 16.03 kilometre Mineshaft Special Stage.
“It is one of those infamous stages,” Gotch simply said, but he summed it up perfectly.
The Mineshaft is one of the biggest attractions of the National Capital Rally, the name originating from a section of the stage which plunges very sharply downwards.
It was dropped from the 2008 event for safety reasons, has been re-graded a number of times to soften the plunge and is a favourite amongst spectators who often hold up scorecards for the drivers. That tradition has been attributed to an infamous troupe of Bathurst based rally officials and competitors known as the Killer Mullet Rally Team.
While Gotch had driven at Canberra in a state event some five years earlier and placed third, he knew the Mineshaft was something that needed to be shown respect.
He had scouted out the stage earlier and even though he was pushing hard to make up the difference to the class leader, he knew he could tackle the steep drop off at 60km/hr and still be safe.
Gotch said at chicane at the approach to the drop off made it hard to get his Subaru aligned and other competitors found it just as tricky.
However, the problem was Gotch had to guess how fast he was travelling as his speedometre was not working.
“I think we were right on the money again, everything felt pretty good and that’s why I tried to do that part at about 60. In recon we did it about 60 and John said to me that it felt safe,” Gotch said.
“I was trying to judge my speed, I wanted to take it at about 60, but our speedo wasn’t working, so I just had to guess what 60 felt like.
“Later on when I looked at the race GPS it showed we were doing 75. That is what the problem was, we just took it too fast.”
The crash meant Gotch and McCarthy took no further part in Saturday’s racing and while they had hoped to repair their Subaru in time for yesterday’s special stages, it was not to be.
Still, Gotch said given the damage appeared to be in the main ‘cosmetic’, he should be back to contest the remaining rounds of the 2013 Australian Rally Championship.
Round two will be staged in Western Australia from April 5-7.