The APRC field for Rally Canberra will see a short-term increase, with three crews from the Australian Rally Championship registered with the regular APRC crews.
Along with ex-APRC competitor Eli Evans and young privateer Nathan Quinn, Micheal Guest, the 1998 APRC Group N champion, will be lining up with the APRC teams in Canberra. The APRC is a great way for domestic drivers to gain international exposure, and Guest did just that via his 1998 title, a springboard to drives with the Hyundai WRC team between 1999 and 2001.
“The way I grew up in rallying in Australia…you always work for the next level, and the next level (after that). You started off in a club championship and moved to a state championship, and then you went to the ARC and then APRC and the WRC. That’s the way I look at it.”
“If you look at this rally, I think we’ve got the most competitive (group of) Australian drivers ever. You’ve got Crocker, Pedder, Herridge, Bates, Evans, myself, Eli Evans. That’s a pretty competitive field, and I want to be able compete both in the ARC and also against the APRC contingent. So why not take the opportunity, and take on that competition?”
For the past two seasons, Guest spear-headed the Ford factory team in Australia, first in a rear wheel drive Focus (running under Australia’s Group N(P) regulations), and last year in a Super 2000 Ford Fiesta. But after showing plenty of progress with the S2000 Fiesta last season, Ford made a shock decision at the end of 2007 to withdraw from rallying in Australia and Guest found himself without a drive.
“It was pretty devastating to have it finish that way. There was a hell of a lot of work put in, firstly with the rear wheel drive Focus which was more of a P.R. exercise, and it was very difficult for me to do much with that car. It was way over-weight and well under-powered. And then the Super 2000 car; it was late to get started…and we were really chasing our tail in terms of testing and developing along the way.”
“But in NSW and certainly that last heat in Melbourne where I was winning that event ahead of Simon (Evans) on his own roads, and I hadn’t been there for five years…we showed great speed, finishing second by only ten seconds. So we showed great potential, and great potential for Super 2000 (cars) in the championship.”
This year Micheal has found a home with Les Walkden Rallying, no stranger themselves to the APRC having taken Cody Crocker to his first Asia-Pacific title in 2006.
“I’ve probably driven for more teams, in a wider variety of cars, than most people going around. But they are such a well-drilled, well-oiled, well-organised team, and I know that when they present a car to me it’s been prepared to the ‘n-th’ degree and it gives me great confidence. I know that I can push the car as hard as I need to do whatever I need to do with it. That feeling of confidence that these guys give to me is not something that comes easy. You can drive for factory teams, and still not get that level of confidence”.
Although Guest will line-up against the APRC crews in Canberra, he’ll still be scoring points in the ARC, which is also running its second round of the year. He currently sits 4th on points, just ahead of defending champion Simon Evans. And with a strong Aussie contingent in the APRC ranks this year, the top ARC crews will be keen to show them just who is the fastest in the Canberra forests.
Photos courtesy of Joel Strickland and Keith McKinnon.