Fans and competitors of car rallying are eager to see the restart of motorsport in Australia and overseas. The cancellation of rallies and self isolation measures due to Covid-19 has affected tourism in our most economically vulnerable regional communities. Batemans Bay, Bega, Narooma and Monaro were counting on the events to boost tourism to make up for the loss of revenue during the summer bushfires.
It is not only our regional centres eager for the restart of the rally season but also several second-generation rally drivers who emerged on the rally scene last year taking out several awards from more experienced competitors. One of the young guns is the 2019 ACT novice and NSW 2WD development series rally champion Chris Stilling son of veteran rally champion Trevor Stilling. Chris Stilling was eager to start the 2020 season to further hone his skills as a rally driver. Stilling advised while he is disappointed with the deferral of the sport, he supports Motorsport Australia’s decision in support of the health of the community. Stilling said he will use the time to focus on further improvements to his car for the planned restart of the rally season later this year.
Late last year Stilling competed in the endurance Alpine rally event but was forced to pull out in the final stages of the event due to mechanical damage to his Stanza.
‘Since the end of the 2019 season I already had a lot of preparation to do on the car to get it back to scratch for the 2020 season. I had to swap out a broken differential which was damaged at the alpine rally and replace it with a new one. Earlier this year with the national capital rally only a matter of weeks away we also discovered the engine of the Stanza needed work with the FJ only running to 50 percent of its current capacity. My initial goal was to compete in the Netier national capital rally in mid-March. With a mammoth effort from Shane from Endurance Automotive we managed to recondition the head of the motor and fix the cylinder leakage just in time for the Canberra event only to find it cancelled at the last minute due to the COVID-19 crisis. Then it was a snowball effect with all motorsport events cancelling’, said Stilling.
Not to be deterred by the covid-19 impacts on the rally season Stilling aims to compete in as many ACT and NSW events as possible once the 2020 rally season recommences.
‘Like everyone else, I am hopeful that there will be competitive events run this season. However, we are all just going with the flow and playing it by ear. My plan for the meantime is to upgrade the safety features in my car including looking for winged race seats. I will also use this time to make sure the car is 100 percent ready for the next event and tweak any minor imperfections on the Datsun’, said Stilling.
While Stilling still has a job in demand he, like most TAFE apprentices, is impacted by the education changes with the practical component to his studies not conducive to online learning. ‘I am fortunate enough to still be working as an apprentice electrician in Canberra where work has been consistent and busy considering the circumstances. However, I have been unable to continue my TAFE course due to the crisis and being a practical trade there is minimal I can do from home, all my learning comes directly from the workplace now’, said Stilling.
Assisting Stilling in getting his rally car ready for re-restart of the season is Shane from endurance automotive, Leigh from Manning Automotive near Bega and Stewart Wilkins from SW motorsport.
Raine from Triple UFM Shoalhaven Listen to the Raine motoring program has also agreed to continue her sponsorship of Stilling despite the delay in the season due to covid-19. I have reviewed our arrangements and look forward to maintaining our support as we have a young, talented, and fast rally driver in Chris’ said Raine. With the delay in the 2020 season due to covid-19 we look forward to continuing our partnership into 2021.
(Pictures: 2019 alpine rally – Chris Stilling with codriver Rae Waterhouse)
Simply Music Management and Motorsport
Managing musicians overseas, sponsoring Stilling car rally team. Managing Raine O'Keeffe radio announcer and motorsport journalist.