Adelaide Rally 2022

By: Nick Lenthall, Photography by: Adelaide Rally, Neil Gibson, Nick Lenthall, Roger Lomman, Jai Raymond, Ian Grocke, Frank Kutsche

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Rivalries in motorsport go hand in hand, but in 15 years of competition Nick has nothing but many great friendships

Motorsport has had some famous rivalries. Prost and Senna, Lauda and Hunt, Hamilton and Verstappen. I guess it gets a bit personal at those lofty heights, but not here.

My fifteen years of tarmac rallying have provided me with tremendous enjoyment and great friendships, without a rift in sight. Speaking as a bloke who believes rallying is a privilege, I have certainly had more than my rightful share of adrenaline on some of the twistiest and most picturesque roads on my patch.


For those of you uninitiated, rallying consists of driving flat out on closed road stages connected by liaison or transport stages which you traverse within the normal speed limits and observing all road rules. A short stage might only be one or two kilometres, and a long one maybe 20 or more. The tarmac bit just confirms the preference for tarmac over gravel.

Your co-driver guides you through these special stages by reading notes that you have made describing every curve, bump, crest and brow to make you aware of the next obstacle. Writing the pace notes by driving the road before the event is an art in itself. I don’t mind admitting that I find this part of the preparation thoroughly enjoyable.


Lancia with Roger Buratto and daughter Georgia (left); Author Lenthall and Gibbo

You can’t practice for a rally. You can practice car control on a racetrack, and you can invest time in your recce (reconnaissance) to write the very best notes to describe the course, but you can’t drive flat out down an open road in the traffic just to see how it feels. That’s a no-no.

Are you starting to get the picture? Rallying unlike circuit racing is a skill of listening to your co-driver’s dialogue and processing that so that you know what is around every corner. This for me is the attraction. As a great man once said, the circuit race sees a few corners a thousand times, but the rally driver sees a thousand corners once.

| Read next: Adelaide Motorsport Festival 2016


Now think of your favourite stretch of road. The one you drive some Sundays because the way the corners flow is like a drug. Are there corners over crests that only you know where to position the car for? Are there downhill hairpins that you know you could cut if it wasn’t for being a responsible road user? These little gems of roads make up a tarmac rally and your co-driver will describe even the newest of them to you, so they are like an old friend.

After seven or eight Saturdays spent driving roads and writing our notes, we were ready to take on our 13th Adelaide Rally, which would be my final fling. Together with my crew Olev, Ty and Wayne, all our preparation is done in house. I built the engine, Ty did the wiring, Wayne does the paint, and we rely on Ollie’s wealth of experience to oversee all our work. Together we have achieved a 100 per cent finishing rate over 15 years of Adelaide Rallies.


Once at the start of this four-day event, the Old Mates reunion begins. Our 1976 Ford Escort runs in the Classic Class. We have mates we have raced against for over a decade, Roger Lomman in his 240Z, and Jai Raymond in his Rover SD1. More recently this happy band has been joined by Ian Grocke in his V8 Capri and Steve Miller in his SR20 powered Datsun 1600.

We already know we will be swapping times for the next four days and that only adds to the enjoyment.


There’s a saying that a driver is only as good as his co-driver and in this group you will find some interesting examples.

My co-driver Neil (Gibbo) Gibson is a seasoned campaigner of many Targa Tasmania events in a V8 powered Monaro, and a V8 TR7. That said, as an import from the UK he was delighted to relive his youth, taking a seat in a Ford Escort. Gibbo delivers excellent calls as well as constant sarcasm. It’s important to have a good time and we spend most of ours between stages laughing.


Classic Challenge AE86

Roger Lomman is guided by his partner Annie Bainbridge. They compete in motorsport constantly and it shows in their results. Annie has the occasional drive too just to keep him honest.

Jai Raymond needed someone with nerves of steel to sit alongside in his dry sumped Rover V8. Who better than your mum? Jen Mathwin Raymond is as fierce a competitor as any of us and never lets the side down.


The four days of competition were not without their obstacles. Jai had electrical problems (In a British car, who would have thought?) which despite his great driving often spoiled his stage times. Ian Grocke and Matt Flannery ran out of electricity in their Capri and were sidelined for a few hours while they found some more spark. Steve Miller had the ride of his life when a suspension bolt broke at speed on the Gorge Road. Steve’s great skills brought the beast to rest without a scratch and even though he had to use the trailer of shame, he was back in it before the day was done. We even broke a header pipe and limped home for our crew to weld the extractors back together so we could complete the last day. Roger and Annie just set great times all weekend to finish in fourth ahead of Jai and Jen in fifth and ourselves in 6th only seconds ahead of a hard charging 911.

I wasn’t sad to retire after this. In fact, I was elated that my final fling was mostly trouble-free, our best result yet, and in an event that ran like clockwork. Full marks to the organisers and all the officials, about 400 of them, who make events like this possible for us glory seekers. The only thing left now was to all get together at Jai’s place a week later to brag and share a few reds.



From Unique Cars #468, Jul/Aug 2022


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