Classic Porsche one week; off-road buggy the next – the rally program of Naomi Tillett is nothing if not varied!
Fresh from an Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rally class win in Rob Black’s 1971 Porsche 911S last weekend, Australia’s ‘co-driver queen’ will team with Darrell ‘Bullet’ Knight an open-air Can-Am Commander ‘side by side’ (SXS) six days later in the International Rally of Queensland.
Tillett admitted to some trepidation when Rob told her that he would be driving the 40 year-old Porsche in the Late Historic class, instead of his Modern class 2007 Porsche GT3 RS.
“I’ve co-driven with Rob in the past three Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rallies in the GT3,” she said. “But he’s selling that car, so he brought his 911S out of ‘retirement’ this year.
“Last weekend was my first tarmac rally in a car of that vintage,” she said. “It didn’t have any of the electronic driving and safety aids, like ABS and airbags, that even the cheapest current model cars have today.
“That puts a lot more responsibility on the driver, because there’s no ‘safety net’ if something goes wrong on the fast sections of these events – which can be around 200km/h.
“I was a bit nervous before the start, but Rob drove smoothly and within his and the car’s limits, as he always does.
“He deserves most of the credit for our class win.”
Next weekend it’s all change for Tillett as she returns to the Australian Side by Side Challenge, run in conjunction with the Australian Rally Championship.
Once again she’ll team with fellow Adelaide ATV ace Darrell ‘Bullet’ Knight in one of two X-Team Can-Am Commander Xs contesting the inaugural two-make series against a horde of Polaris RZR 900XPs.
Knight and Tillett lead their team-mates Michael Guest and David Green 77 points to 70 in the unofficial ‘Commander class’ at the halfway mark of the four-round series.
The International Rally of Queensland will present the SXS field with a different format compared to the first two rounds.
The SXS buggies will drive the same route as the rally cars, instead of the combination of gravel roads and off-road tracks at Rally Calder in Victoria and the forest Rally in WA.
“There’ll be a lot of high-speed driving, which should favour rally drivers like Michael Guest in our team, and Cody Crocker in the factory Polaris,” Tillett said.
“It will be a big test for Darrell, because he’s more familiar with rough terrain than smooth rally roads – but he’ll give it his best shot, as always.”
The rally will also test co-drivers more than before, according to Tillett.
“Different combinations of the same roads will be used during the rally,” she said.
“That will really keep us co-drivers on our toes, especially during the pre-event recce.
“It will be so important not to get confused when we drive the same stretch of road in different stages.
“One small slip-up with the pace notes could prove costly in the heat of the rally!”
The International Rally of Queensland gets underway with a ceremonial start at Kings Beach, Caloundra, on Friday evening, followed by competitive stages in the Sunshine Coast hinterland on Saturday and Sunday.