IAN Plenderleith has driven more racing kilometres over the years than he could count, but he will remember the 120 which made up the 2017 Rosewood Rally.
When the rally finished on Saturday afternoon, he and co-driver Mel McMinn sat on top of the time sheet after an impressive effort behind the wheel.
“I’m 34 now and I’ve been driving for 17 years, so smack on halfway, and this is the first outright win I’ve had and Mel’s first outright win as well,” Plenderleith said.
“I’ve got the monkey off my back now, the pressure is off.”
The Rosewood Rally was the second round of this year’s AMSAG Pipe King Southern Cross Rally Series and the third event which Plenderleith had contested alongside McMinn.
The duo placed second at the Orange Rally late last year and were runners-up in the opening round of the 2017 series held at Black Springs in March.
Those results encouraged the Iplen Motor Sport team to tackle all the rounds of this year’s series, a decision which thus far looks a good one.
The pair’s overall time of one hour, 29 minutes, 40 seconds gave them a one-second win over Thomas Dermody and Eoin Moynihan.
“This is the first time they’ve run one down at Rosewood and the first time that the Carabost State Forest has been used at all in 23 years,” Plenderleith said.
"It was unreal forest, I like the roads because they suited my driving ... I like tight and twisty stuff I can get my teeth into.
“It was slippery, it might sound funny, but it was a bit dirty, there was a lot of loose stuff on the top of it. It meant it was about controlling your pace a little and being aware the speed that you usually take a 90 degree corner at might be a little bit too fast.”
What made the win more impressive for the Iplen team was the age of their car – a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III – and the tyres it used.
“We did the whole rally on the same tyres we did the previous rally,” Plenderleith said.
It was unreal forest, I like the roads because they suited my driving ... I like tight and twisty stuff I can get my teeth into.
“The guy who came second was putting on new tyres at every service.
“Our car is an ex-Pedders Australia car. In it’s day it was very competitive, but it’s a bit outdated now the poor old thing. It’s just about being conscious of its weaknesses.”
It came down to the final stage to decide the outright winner, with Dermody and Moynihan leading by four seconds at that point after a strong showing in their Ford Escort RS1800.
But over the 12km of ridge top gravel roads, Plenderleith and McMinn pushed hardest to win the stage by five seconds and narrowly beat Dermody and Moynihan.
With Black Springs victor and top seed Tim Joass (Evo2) not competing at Rosewood, the win lifted the Iplen team to the overall series lead.
They will look to consolidate that position next month at the two-day Bega Valley Rally.