Heart of the Hunter 2008

Heart of the Hunter 2008

23rd August 2008

Club President and Event Director Geoff Thomas had promised a good event with good quality roads, picturesque scenery and easy route-charted navigation across the 300Kms of the Hunter Valley.

Saturday morning in Newcastle turned out to be overcast and much cooler than had been experienced for the previous week or two and it seemed that the weather forecast of cold and rain may put a dampener on the event. However conditions at the starting location of Freemans Waterhole were fine and clear as competitors went thru their early scrutineering for the running of this year’s Heart of the Hunter.

As competitors arrived they were greeted and their entries processed by the team of club enthusiasts which included Vicky Murphy and Karen Piggott while club stalwart Brian Lawler managed the scrutineering of each vehicle ably supported by Bill Murphy who was doing Assistant Clerk of Course duties for the day.

At 9:30am, Geoff called the entrants to the briefing and the mantra of “Read your route instructions carefully” was duly delivered along with advice on conditions ahead and the need to be observant. Briefing over, the ten cars entered in the Touring Assembly and the five entered in the Register Run began to assemble at the starting line.

The entry list included many from AHRG and it was pleasing to see keen entrants from other clubs such as Ian Packard from the Classic Rally Club in his Peugeot 504 joining us once again following his misfortune with a holed sump in the Night Owl. Also along were Eric and Ian Hancock from Hunter MG Club in the delightful MG Lenham Special. Steve Cox and Brenda Freeman also from the Classic Rally Club came along in the Nissan Gazelle. Among the Register Runners we had Rod Towers and Nicholas O’Donnel in the Ford Sierra, Martin Reeves came in his Pajero and his *very* young son was introduced into the fine art of rally navigation while Barry Collins and Bob Blayden came along in Barry’s sharp looking red 240Z. Other Register Runners included David Parnell and family in their Cooper S, Dennis Tobin in the immaculate Sunbeam Rapier while Dannie Carter punted the Porsche along with Glen Elgar in a Corvette.

As each competitor was flagged away they were being led into the first of what were to be possible tie-breakers. It was interesting to notice how many  understood the instructions of Straight On, but how many carried out a Turn Left when the instructions clearly stated the a Turn Right was required. Congratulations to Geoff and Jane Cranna in their beautifully presented BMW2002 tii and to David Mitchell and Scott Warner in their Datsun 280Z who made the correct choice here.

Section 1. Freemans Waterhole to Mangrove Creek. – Navigation
From Freemans Waterhole, cars headed south on Freemans Drive to Awaba then Dora Creek, on to Cooranbong then down the Hue Hue Road to the road through the Yarramalong Valley up Bumble Hill to Kulnura to Section 1 finish at Mangrove Creek Dam – a hidden treasure with magnificent views.

Section 2.  Mangrove Creek Dam to Broke. – Driving.
From the Dam the cars continued in a northerly direction along George Downes Drive where they joined the Great North Road Convict Trail at Bucketty. From Bucketty to Laguna the road is notable for its unexpected sharp bends which are now well sign posted yet it seems that every weekend someone comes unstuck here.  Down into the Wollombi Valley through Laguna and a very quiet Wollombi where last year’s June floods caused much damage cutting off the locals from the Tavern which suffered considerable damage and loss of stock levels of Jurd’s Jungle Juice for which the tavern is famous. The extent of the damage caused  by the floods more than 12 months ago is still evident in the condition of the road to the immediate north of Wollombi where the North and South Arms of the Wollombi Brook are joined by Yango Creek and Narone Creek. The old timber bridges and fragile road surface are showing the scars of the damage done by the swollen creeks. This meant that considerable caution has to be observed for oncoming traffic through the narrow cutting and one-way traffic conditions are in force still. From Wollombi the competitors continued north and once Paynes Crossing had been traversed the south western fringes of Hunter Valley Wine Country displayed the freshly winter pruned vines preparing themselves for the coming of spring.

Between Paynes Crossing and Broke there are many fine road sections with long open stretches and open bends allowing a mild turn of speed up to the limit. It is on this section of road where only the weekend prior to the event, work was being carried out to repair the damage to surface and the few small bridges. Due to this work instructions needed to be included in the route chart advising of a detour around a bridge that was in the process of being replaced.  As it turned out, the bridge had been totally replaced in the intervening days. The best laid plans of mice and men…..

The end of Section 2 was at the intersection of the Wollombi Road and Broke Road. Control was situated in the small parkland area opposite the Broke General Store which did a roaring trade hustling up burgers for passers by as well as the crews right here in the Heart of the Hunter.

Section 3.  Broke to Bolwarra – Good roads with easy navigation.
From Broke the crews headed east on Broke Road towards Pokolbin turning north at Hermitage Road passing many large vineyards along the way. At the intersection with the New England Highway cars turned east along the highway towards Branxton where they turned left off the highway on to Elderslie, through Lambs Valley on the Maitland Vale Road through Rosebrook and Maitland Vale before crossing over a railway bridge where many missed the rail crossing count needed for a possible tie-breaker and concluded the section at Bolwarra on the Tocal Road.

Section 4 – Bolwarra to Nulkaba – The run home. Easy navigation and more good flowing roads.
Departing Bolwarra, the cars headed north east towards Woodville where they crossed the Paterson River and turned left to travel along the river valley up to Martins Creek then across to Vacy. A triple caution was positioned to warn of the bridge crossing after a sharp crest. This caught a few unwary out due to the short approach to the bridge and again the Director’s message rang true for many for not taking full heed of the mantra to “Read your instructions”.  From Vacy on to Paterson where another tie-breaker was positioned. This time great reliance would be placed on observation and trip meter readings skills. To Geoff’s surprise, most crews were able to discover the letter board secreted away in Paterson Park.

From Paterson the crews travelled back down to Bolwarra again where a tricky intersection required navigators to choose the correct turning to read another secret letter board which caught four crews out. From Bolwarra, the cars travelled along Maitland Vale Road once more until they reached the intersection with Dickenson Road. Where Dickenson Road joins Melville Ford Road there is a sharp left turn onto Aberglasslyn Road where the road suddenly drops down onto a long single lane timber bridge which sits low over the Hunter River. Caution is required down the drop as it can unsight drivers from on-coming traffic on the bridge.

From Aberglasslyn the crews were on the home run down through suburban Rutherford and a right turn back onto the New England Highway for a short distance before turning  onto the Wollombi Road through Farley, Bishops Bridge and a right turn onto Majors Lane Road which in turn lead the crews back into Hunter Valley Wine Country at Lovedale Road. A left turn here through more vineyards brought the crews eventually onto Wine Country Drive just south of the Visitor Information Centre and a short drive down the Drive to Potters Brewery where Geoff Thomas had final control setup.

After checking in to control everyone headed to the covered beer garden where many fine stories were told as everyone met to relax for a while until the final competitors had arrived and the points scoring could be carried out by Karen Piggott who did a sterling day’s work helping out.

Congratulations to Ian Packard and Neil Watt in the bronze Peugeot 504 in taking outright 1st place. And, much thanks and kudos must go to all officials, be it at the start, finish, controls, and the running of the event.

See the photos taken on the day in the Heart of the Hunter 2008 album on our gallery page.

Entry List for Heart of the Hunter 2008 Touring Assembly.

No. Driver Club Navigator Car
1 David Mitchell AHRG Scott Warner 76 Datsun 260Z
2 Richard Armanski AHRG Sharon Armanski 91 Mitsu Lancer
3 Ian Packard CRC Neil Watt 78 Peugeot 504
4 David Miller MGCCN Michael Miller 70 Volvo 142
5 Andrew Carloff AHRG Michelle Atkinson 06 Mazda SP23
6 Steven Cox CRC Brenda Freeman 85 Nissan Gazelle
7 Geoff Cranna AHRG Jane Cranna 72 BMW 2002 tii
8 Eric Hancock Huntr MG Ian Hancock 65 MG Lenham Spl.
9 David Walsh AHRG Barry Prassil 75 Dolomite
10 Rod Piggott AHRG Andrew Park 75 Peugeot 505

Class Results
1st Class A: Eric and Ian Hancock, ’65 MG Lenham Special
1st Class B: Geoff and Jane Cranna, ’72 BMW 2002 tii
1st Class C: Ian Packard and Neil Watt, 78 Peugot 504
1st Class Modern: Andrew Carloff and Michelle Atkinson, ’06 Mazda SP23

Outright Results 
1st Ian Packard and Neil Watt
2nd Geoff and Jane Cranna
3rd Steven Cox and Brenda Freeman