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Member Article: The Rally – Part VIII

Day 7 – Strahan to Hobart

The final day! The drive was a relatively easy one, just 315 k’s, with 301 of those on the seal and only 14 on dirt. There was a short optional scenic diversion on the route to Bronte Lagoon, and a 42km detour off the Lyell Highway. But aside from that it stuck to the highways. Well, the Tasmanian highways which are a little bit different to the mainland highways.

The morning started the same way it did all week, with breakfast and briefing, then one exception. Mum and Son had managed to find a new AU Falcon transmission and fit it to their car. And get it back on the road. I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime in the previous 24 hours. Then for the first time ever, a medal removing ceremony was had, where they had to go back to the tents and get their medals.

The big exception for today was car buybacks. Teams have the choice of buying the car back for $250 or putting it up for auction. Whichever option you chose the proceeds go to the cancer council for further fundraising. I’d decided to buy the car back. I had booked a return leg on the Spirit a week later and was going to do some sightseeing around Tasmania in that week. Fortunately, the car made it, and it was relatively unscathed after the driveshaft was fixed.

Normally departures are a well oiled machine, but someone from support was on his last ever rally as support, and this was the last day of his last rally. So he was given the radio to let teams off for his first time. Very quickly it became a bit of free for all, so we left relatively early. In the end, we never ended up with a back of the pack departure the whole rally. We’d kind of managed to jump a few places either through sheer luck, or having team mates wearing the right costumes on the right day.

We decided to let the traffic spread out a bit and go to a proper coffee shop for the coffee drinkers. A rare occurrence in the last week, so we detoured into Strahan town.

We’d settled into the position of lead car for our buddy group for about half of the week. We’d been setting a good speed, and our buddy group liked our communication over the radio. So we were the lead for the final day too.

Strahan is a beautiful little town that once had a far more significant role in Tasmania’s economy than it does now. It’s become the tourist hotspot for the west coast of Tasmania, offering a range of upmarket accommodation and postcard perfect scenery. The west coast of Tasmania is a spectacular place in the world and well worth a visit. It’s a historical mining area that’s had to reinvent itself into a tourism hotspot with Queenstown (my favourite), Strahan and Zeehan all well worth a three night visit (or longer).

If you’ve been watching Bay of Fires on ABC at all, that’s filmed in the West Coast area of Tasmania with all the Mystery Bay town scenes filmed in Zeehan.

Our goal of letting some space between us and the rest of the rally didn’t work out so well. There was road works just out of Strahan with traffic controllers stopping traffic, and only a couple of buddy groups could get through at a time. We were behind Mum and Son who were leaving a trail of transmission oil from their new transmission. But it was the last day, and not too far to the finish line.

We decided to take the detour to Bronte Lagoon. It was a right turn in off the main road, but then also a right turn back onto the main road. It was a beautiful lagoon where we took a toilet stop, a lunch stop and for Neil from Rusty Wrecks, a swimming stop despite the 14 degree temperature of the air.

We then had a bit of a detour off the main highway, and then another detour off that road onto some dirt. More scenic Tasmania. Tasmanian towns all have their own little character, all so often set in the valley of a mountain or on the side of a mountain, and almost always with picture perfect views through each of the little towns we drove through.

Back onto the Lyell Highway for the finish line at the Royal Hobart Regatta Grounds. We got separated in traffic and tried to arrange for our Buddy Group to meet up before the finish line, so we could drive over together. But it didn’t work out with too much traffic, and not enough spaces we could all park together. We tried to bunch up at the end and cross the finish line together but weren’t entirely successful.

We were pretty much around the middle of the rally for finishing. Which meant there were quite a few cars in already, and I could watch more coming across the finish line. I saw three cars cross the finish line that I hadn’t seen before. With 250 cars on the rally, you see a lot of them time and time again, but there’s always a few you miss. It turns out one of them was a replacement car that was acquired three nights earlier, another was in my photos at the start line, and the other one, a KL Laser had been in the rally the whole time, and I’d just never seen it.

Trevor (Anthony’s partner) had come along to see us at the finish line. His nephew and partner who lived in Launceston also made the trip down to Hobart to see us all come over the finish line. There was an opportunity to see all the cars again, most looking a little worse than they did a week ago. A handful had dented roofs, either from tyres being strapped directly to them, roof racks sitting on the roof, or more commonly because the whole buddy group or part of it had stood up there at some point in the last week.

The rally has preferred hotels that they organise discounted rates at, although these are still at the far more comfortable end of the of the hotel range, not so much the price range. I decided to choose a more budget option, an old Art Deco hotel that I’ve stayed at before. As luck would have it, that was less than a block from one of the other hotels, so I still got to see plenty of rally cars around, and the Suzuki got spotted in the street quite a bit. We all took the opportunity to bask in a proper indoor shower before our buddy group headed out for dinner and a bit of a social catch up and wind down before getting to sleep in a proper bed. Although technically we’d also had the proper shower and proper bed on the Spirit of Tasmania.

Words and Photos by Daniel Borton

Paul Hollingworth

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