Leigh Manning thrilled at Bega Valley Rally return

Rebuilt: Kalaru's Leigh Manning scorches through the opening stage on Bega's Upper Cobargo Road after finishing the rebuild on his Datsun.

Rebuilt: Kalaru's Leigh Manning scorches through the opening stage on Bega's Upper Cobargo Road after finishing the rebuild on his Datsun.

Preparations for the Bega Valley Rally included a few midnight-finishes for Kalaru driver and mechanic Leigh Manning. 

Manning said it had been a five-month rebuild on his Datsun 1600 after rolling on a rally stage about nine months ago. 

“I’ve just rebuilt the car because I wrote the other one off … so after nine months it was about getting a bit of confidence and ego back behind the wheel,” he said. 

“We didn’t push too hard on Saturday, but it started to come together for us on Sunday and we made up about 10 positions.”

He finished 13th overall from the field of 40 and said he could have possibly given fellow locals David and Alexander Eadie a shake if he had gone for broke. 

“My motto was about getting the car home in one piece, I didn’t want to rebuild it again just yet,” he said with a laugh. 

Manning said it was fantastic to see the Bega Valley Rally return after contesting the last event to include the shire roads in about 2008. 

He was pleased to see a field of about 40, including a half-dozen local cars, but said Bega was an “iconic rally boasting a lot of history” and it could grow in future. 

“It does have that history, and especially with the shire roads, if they keep it going it will get up to those big numbers.

“But I was pleased, the field was fair I reckon and pretty competitive – it’s an awesome event.”

He said a particular highlight from the weekend had actually been a delayed start to the second stage along Buckajo Road. 

“I should have filmed it, no one cared about the delay because there were 40 rally cars there lined up and the smiles on everyone’s faces as they just talked about the stage,” he said. 

“We just sat there for 40 minutes talking about the rally until we got the green light to go.”

Manning has been competing in rallies for about 12 years in his own car, mostly contesting with a Datsun 1600 and he’s been a regular on the AMSAG circuit including being a series winner. 

For him, a long-weekend event is as therapeutic as a holiday. 

“It’s my getaway,” he says with a laugh. “It was the first event for this car and we had a lot of fun.”

Travelling away regularly, Manning said it was a blessing for the Valley Rally to return. 

“This was the first event in year’s I haven’t had to pay for accommodation,” he says with a laugh. 

He hopes to see the rally continue and grow as it brings interest and big money to town saying it was easy for teams to spend two-to-three thousand dollars a weekend.

He hopes to compete in it again next year and thanked the “Waterhouse boys” of Sydney, who helped him finish work on the car, while Logan also serves as his co-driver. 

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