Ben Barker clinches return Bega Valley Rally

Ben Barker and co-driver Beau Griggs have claimed the Bega Valley Rally outright by almost three minutes. 

The pair completed all 10 stages in one hour and 41 minutes from the nearest rivals in Ian Plenderleith and Mel McMinn in their Mitsubishi Evo, who crossed the final stage after one hour, 42 minutes and 43 seconds. 

Barker and Griggs had a flawless opening day to the event, claiming first place in each of the first five stages to hold a comfortable two minute lead.

The pair then extended the gap on Sunday, despite meeting some stiffer opposition on the Eden trails with two third places. 

Meanwhile, the other local based team of David and Alexander Eadie claimed 11th overall from the field of 40 cars with a strong presence in the southern stages. 

“We had a ball out there, it was an absolutely awesome weekend,” Alexander beamed, while David added that being on course was his “happy place”. 

Barker set the pace for the field throughout, winning every stage, bar two including the addition of two night stages to this year’s event. 

Meanwhile Alexander and David lost a few seconds on stage one after a near-spin, but were otherwise matching top pace on the opening legs. 

“We were running about third after the Bega stages,” Alexander said, but added that David “tapered off in Eden” as the pair were just out for a bit of fun. 

However, some strong times in the last few stages pushed them ahead to finish just outside the top 10, finishing about eight minutes off Barker’s overall time. 

Officials said not everything went as smoothly as the two local entrants as a number of cars faced mechanical challenges throughout. 

One stage and spectator point also had to be altered due to the rain earlier in the week bogging up a section of the course. 

However, officials said 40 entries was the peak of hopes for the returning rally after a long hiatus and it should only grow in popularity for future rounds. 

Clerk of Course Ian Slater also thanked the Australian Motor Sport Action Group (AMSAG) for coming on board and including the Bega event as part of the Southern Cross series. 

The Rally also provided a chance to re-create a bit of history with a photo of fans spectating from a tree as David Eadie roared past in the early 90s. 

The BDN was on hand to try and re-capture the moment as David returned to the rally, with his son Alexander, while Don Ryan passed on his apologies for not being home to take part.