Some of Australia's best known rally drivers will descend on Batemans Bay on Saturday 1 September to battle out honours in the Kumho Tyres Classic Rally of the Bay, which will be round two of the East Coast Classic Rally Challenge.
While the latest generation Subarus and Mitsubishis will be battling it out for outright State Championship many eyes will be focussed on the battle amongst the burgeoning field of 'Heritage' machines fighting out the Classic class on the rally.
Classics have become a boom segment of rallying with many of the stars of the past spending big money to build new 'old' cars to relive the halcyon days of rallying in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The Kumho Tyres Classic Rally of the Bay is the second round of a three round challenge series for Classic pre 1985 two wheel drive rally cars that is set to draw some of the best in the class to Batemans on September 1.
The three round East Coast Classic Rally Challenge kicked off with the Bega Valley Rally's Sapphire Coast Classic on the June Long Weekend with round two scheduled for the Kumho Tyres Classic Rally of the Bay while the final will be at the Snake Racing Rally Coffs on October 13-14 at Coffs Harbour.
Bega Valley team Ben and Pip Barker lead the series after winning on home turf in June and should start favourites for the Kumho Tyres Classic Rally of the Bay after winning the rally outright last year.
Famed rally hero of the 1970s Ed 'the Hooligan' Mulligan (pictured) has to run his RS1800 Ford Escort at the Kumho Tyres Classic Rally of the Bay as has famous Sydney driver Keith Byrn in his Datsun Bluebird.
Mulligan is in the midst of a full program of classic rallies on both sides of the Tasman having contested the recent Possum Bourne Memorial rally at the World Championship, Rally of New Zealand as well as the legendary Otago Rally in Dunedin and the Sapphire Classic at Bega.
The old fellas will have their work cut out for them however with Rally of the Bay defending champ Barker in his potent BMW 320 'M3'.
Barker won the Rally of the Bay in 2011 when it was a round of the AMSAG Rally Masters series and will almost certainly be back to battle in the Classics class this year in a car that benefits from the vast technical knowledge of his uncle and co-driver Pip Barker.
Uncle Pip was an engine builder with the famous Frank Gardner JPS BMW team in the 1980s building the M3 engines for the likes of Jim Richards and Tony Longhurst for the Australian Touring Car Champs and while now living back in his home town of Bega teamed with his talented rally driving nephew to build the rapid BMW M3 rally machine.
The South Coast team is keen for other Classic teams to enter for the Bay to spice up the heritage class and add some challenge for the upcoming event.
Hopes are high that four times Australian Rally Champion Canberra's Neal Bates might compete at the Kumho Tyres Classic Rally of the Bay in his all conquering replica TTE Celica RA40 along with the Porsche of Jeff David.
Kumho Tyres Rally of the Bay clerk of course Col Fletcher says the Classic are shaping as a real drawcard for the September 11 event especially considering it is the second round of the East Coast Classic Rally Challenge.
"The interest in the Classics is sky high and with the growing fleet of Classic rally cars being built I reckon we will have a bumper field at the Kumho Tyres rally of the Bay," said Col.
"Ben Barker showed just how fast he and the BMW are winning here last year but he will have a tough task repeating it in 2012 given the likely field of starters at the Bay this year," he said.
"We are very pleased to announce five times Australian rally champ Ross Dunkerton will be our special guest at the Kumho Tyres Rally of the Bay and will not only speak at a special rally dinner to be held at the Bay Waters Resort on Friday 31 August but will also be commentating at our spectator points over the weekend."
"Dunko will add to the excitement and fun across the weekend at the Kumho Tyres Rally of the Bay particularly with the Classics and we are all very pleased he has decided to fly in from his home in Cairns to join us on the South Coast for the rally," he added.
The rally will kick off with a ceremonial start on Saturday at lunchtime beside the river, giving locals the opportunity to see the competitors and their array of spectacular rally cars up close.
After driving over the start ramp competitors will face 131 kilometres of competitive running over nine challenging stages over some of the most flowing and truly enjoyable roads in Australia.
The first car is due to finish the rally around 8:20pm giving drivers and spectators plenty of action as the sun sets and into the evening.
Spectators will have plenty of chances to view all the action, with four viewing points during the rally with live commentary and up to date results and rally news at the final point.
The service park and finish will be located in the one place near the centre of Batemans Bay and the relaxed format will allow service crews to go to spectator points to see their car and be back to service with time to spare.