The Experts returned to the forests around Heathcote on Saturday 23rd July with 22 crews entered. The late withdrawal of 2 experienced navigators (Geoff Floyd and Simon Brown) left 20 crews lining up to try and find all of the tricks and tracks road director Phil Nicholas had hidden in the 7 maps and 2 route instruction books.
The Daylight section began at midday and took crews from the Heathcote Showgrounds to Tooborac to honour Jim Maude and then across to Redesdale via the Argyle forest. From there they headed north to skirt the west side of Lake Eppalock on their way to Knowsley forest. A back and forth trip there had crews heading back to Heathcote via a brief detour through the One Eye forest. The 4 hour time allowed seemed generous but there were 40 VIAS or passage controls to pass so it was hard work for the crews.
At the end of the daylight section the leaders were Mike Ward / Dave McKenzie and Bill Hamilton / Matt De Vaus with 55 points lost. Next were Greg Park / Brian Ward just 5 points behind. In 4th place close behind on 65 points were Kim Harper / Steuart Snooks and Laurie Pelech / Russ Day with Taylah Murphy / Mitch Garrad and John Rawson / Ash McBain in 6th place with 80 points lost.
Unfortunately the dinner break saw the withdrawal of 4 crews including the then equal leaders Bill and Matt after Matt had to race back to Melbourne following an accident involving his partner. James Pickard with his father and daughter navigating decided this “Experts” stuff was way more difficult than they realised as did Michael O’Brien and Scott Liggins. Robert Dyer / Richard Davies were the other crew to call enough after a few mechanical issues and Robert not feeling the best.
Despite the on and off drizzle the remaining 16 crews set off in good spirits to battle the darkness and multitude of tracks and try to follow Phil’s route through the traditional Goldfields Experts forests to the north-east of Heathcote. The night event was divided into 2 sections with a short 10 minute rest break at the junction of Tait-Hamilton and White Hills roads in the Whroo forest.
A simple drive up the highway took the cars to Tait-Hamilton road where the search for the unmapped tracks began in earnest. Whilst all but one crew found the first VIA of the night, by the 4th VIA, a passage control, only 2 crews managed to get it right.
By the end of the 1st night section, named Upper Forest, only Kim Harper / Steuart Snooks had managed to clean the 21 informations and passage controls. Michael Ward / David McKenzie were 10 points behind after 2 WD’s. and John Rawson / Ash McBain also lost 10 points after missing a passage control. Greg Park / Brian Ward and Laurie Pelech / Russ Day were in equal 4th place with only 25 points lost so positions were very close and the night-time seemed to be helping some crews find their way. Taylah Murphy / Mitch Garrad in a big Nissan Navara dropped 40 points and Geoff Ninnes (who travelled from Sth Australia for the event) / Rob Wilson lost 50. Unfortunately, Alan Upton / Don Williams were having electrical problems and had to miss the second section and cut and run to the finish control as did Kevin Symons / John Orr, Barry Farnell / Phil Gallagher.
The 1st night section was only 71 km in 2.75 hours and the crews had a minimum 10 minutes rest break before heading out for the final 61kms which was obviously going to be tougher as 3 hours was allowed for this shorter section, which started with a “Stick Chart”.
Only 2 crews missed the 1st and 2nd VIAS but by the 3rd, a passage control, that number was up to 6 and the next VIA (another passage control) caught all but 3 crews as did the next VIA (another passage control) with most getting a WD. It was here that Kim Harper / Steuart Snooks dropped their only points for the entire night sections with 5 points lost which gave them the victory.
Michael Ward / David McKenzie did very well to drop only 15 points on the 2nd section for a night total of only 25 and 2nd place overall. John Rawson / Ash McBain finished in 3rd place with 55 points dropped to add to their 80 from the day section.
Taylah Murphy / Mitch Garrad who had been equal with John and Ash before the sun set finished in 4th place on 170 points after dropping 90 during the night.
I’m sure most of the experienced crews would love to do it again and some additional interstate interest in doing the next one has already been mentioned.
Michael Ward and David McKenzie, reading the details on the sign post. Pic by John Doutch.