2016 SPORTING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – PETER NEAL

This award is presented to a long term NSW competitor, who has gone above and beyond to greater things!

Peter started rallying back in the late 60’s when he & his brother creatively acquired their mothers VW Beetle in order to compete.

In 1974, with his brother driving and Peter navigating, they won the Group 6 rally championship in the very same VW Beetle. This was the time of Datsun 1600s, Mazda RX2s, Datsun 240Zs using real navigation with maps and Rally Romers.

Peter also helped Dan White out on the famous Southern Cross Rallies as an assistant director for many years.

Back in the day, Peter navigated for the likes of Keith Page, Fred Chauncey and one of the fathers of the V8 Supercars, as we now know it, Des West.

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Peter Neal

Peter Neal – a very surprised recipient of the 2016 Sporting Achievement Award

In 1987 he returned to rallying as a driver in his own Datsun 1600, winning the NSW Novice Championship of that year, at the last event at Walcha, despite having rolled the car at a Route Passage Control Point. He’d had to stick his head through   the steering wheel to reach the under-dash hand brake on a tight right – he got it all wrong. The passage control official   threw the tag into the driver’s side window and pushed the car back onto its wheels. Peter continued on to beat his closest competitor, take out the championship, and then proceed to miss milking the next morning… but only by about four hours.

Peter campaigned his Datsun 1600 for a few more years at Group 6 level but then decided he needed a bigger challenge and began entering NSW State events in 1990. This came with mixed success, a memorable event being a State event at Coffs Harbour. With an Option 1 gearbox purchased and fitted to the car, he and his navigator started well, but the gearbox started making unusual noises before the end of the first stage. The car was withdrawn from the event and the subsequent carton of beer purchased. Needless to say, by the end of the rally, Peter and his service crew were in fine form and ended up in a cabin at a local caravan park, not looking their best when the night was finished.

Peter then purchased a Subaru RX Turbo, thinking that 4WD was the way of the future – some would say he was a visionary. At the time, his mates thought him crazy. Never the less, Peter went off to the first round of the NSW Championship that year at Wagga Wagga. In the pine forests to the south of Wagga, things looked positive to start with but at this event he was dubbed with a nick name – Commonwealth. Every time Peter drove the car back into the service park, he had damaged either one or both of the rear quarter panels. This prompted a panel beater who was present to keep saying to Peter’s navigator, “Which bank?” to which his service crew would reply “Commonwealth”.

Peter’s best results in the RX Turbo were setting a fastest time at a Taree Mitsubishi State event, equalling the Mitsubishi Starion of Craig Stallard and leading a Clubman event at Buladelah. It had rained before the event and the roads were like ice. Peter charged into the night winning the first stage by some 30 seconds, only to break 2nd gear in that stage. To get to service, Peter had to drive through the second stage anyway, so with the red mist down because of the gearbox issue, unintentionally placed the RX into front wheel drive and proceeded to win that stage. Without knowing the results, the car was loaded on the trailer and headed for home, only to find out that he had also won that stage and lead by about two minutes when the results were mailed out. Bugger!

Peter also won the E4, 4WD Championship and came 2nd outright in the 1992 Clubman Championship in the RX Turbo.

With the limits of the RX explored, Peter then purchased a Subaru Legacy that he hoped would be a winner. With the car built in 1995, Peter campaigned this car for twenty years, mostly in a Turbo configuration and in the last year as a naturally aspirated 4WD car in the DRS4 competition in 2014, once again coming 2nd outright & 1st 4WD in the series.

Peter drove the car very well but as he searched for more horsepower, reliability became an issue. Knowledgeable tuners were hard to come by in the early days; many of his engines were sacrificed to the rally gods, about thirteen in fact, not to mention two engines on the night before a Taree rally. Peter took this car to victory at a Mt Seaview event in addition to many other successes. Once he found an engine tuner that could keep his engines together Peter and the car became regular top 10 finishers in the NSW State series.

With twenty years written up in the logbook, Peter decided that the car had done enough for him and purchased a Subaru WRX. Peter found out what he’d been missing by not purchasing one earlier but he had one now and was going to make the most of it. He won a couple of events along the way but he always dreamed of doing long distance events.

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Start of 2016 Classic Outback Trial

Peter heading for victory in the Modern category at the 2016 Classic Outback Trial

Peter had planned to compete in, and had entered, the 1995 Round Australia Rally but with the Legacy not being finished in time, had to pull out but the fire was still burning, especially after competing in the Alpine in 2015 as a navigator. He really wanted to compete in these long distance rallies. The Classic Outback Trial had run a couple of times and Peter had rung the organisers to ask if he could enter his car. Being a 4WD Turbo, there were no category for which the car was eligible, so the next time it come around, he rang up again. The answer was still no but the organisers said they would look at it next time.

After the Alpine, Peter chased them again and this time there was a Modern Section in the event for which the WRX was eligible, so the car was rebuilt and off he went to Alice Springs. Finally, a long distant event.

This event alone could be a whole other story. The first day was rained out but even after hitting a mud hole on the second day of competition and the engine sucking mud through the Turbo, intercooler and into the motor, Peter started the last day of this seven-day rally with a fifteen minute lead over Bill Monkhouse. He crossed the finish line with a lead of thirteen minutes in the Modern Section of the Classic Outback Trial – a quick 1000 kilometre dash around the Northern Territory.

Not bad for an old farmer from Taree, the forest racer that took on the outback! Congratulations Peter Neal – a well-deserved recipient of the 2016 RallyNSW Sporting Achievement Award.