Adrian Stratford and Anthony Staltari bounce back to take out 2024 Mitta Mountain Rally in “Lightning McQueen.”

Stratford/Staltari powering to victory over the finish line of the final stage

It was great to see Adrian Stratford and Anthony Staltari bounce back from last year’s big accident, from which co-driver Kain Manning is still recovering, with a resounding victory at Mitta in the Ford Fiesta G4 adorned with “Lightning McQueen” livery. Adrian is now the only multiple winner of this event.

This year, the eighth running of the Mitta Mountain Rally, jointly organised by the North Eastern Car Club and Albury Wodonga and District Car Club, was a round of the Victorian Rally Championship, the Victorian Club Rally Series, and the East Coast Classic Rally Series, although the Mitta Masters for classic cars and crews was dropped this year.

The basics of previous events were retained, including the amazing service park on the golf course, modern Rally Base with excellent local catering, long no repeat blind mountain stages, wrapped up with presentation that night in the fantastic Mitta Pub.  The route was a mix of new and old stages from previous years.

There were 48 starters down from 78 last year, comprised of 33 VRC, including 13 cross-entered in ECCRS and 15 VCRS.

Saturday dawned fine without the traditional Mitta valley fog, with a little cloud that cleared later. Competitors were informed at the briefing that “The roads were built by loggers not engineers.  They are unpredictable, constantly changing in direction, width, radius, shade, camber, and surface.  The consequences of going off road are severe with big drop offs.  There are long intervals in the roadbook with no instructions but lots of corners.  It is matter of judgement what bends deserve noting in the roadbook.  The guide has been: corners that may not be as they appear on approach or out of general character or might be an issue for some at high speed are noted in the roadbook, but only receive a ! Care if likely to be difficult if unaware, or !! Caution if certain damage to occur if unaware.  We have probably erred on the side of too little than too many cautions, as it is frustrating for more experienced crews to slow for something that was not a problem for them.  If there are no cautions it does not mean that the roads can be maximum attacked.  These roads warrant respect and a little reserve, particularly by less experienced crews. They are demanding roads, but ultimately very rewarding.

The ballot of the first three seeded positions saw Redhead lead off followed by Lee and Stratford.

Crews headed east from Mitta to the opening stage – 15.8 km O’Connells Gap, where advice for competitors was: “First of all negotiate the left hander over the bridge just after stage start, then a long steady climb up to O’Connell Gap where it flattens slightly along the side of the ridge, up to Mt Benambra, then along it for a little way before dropping of it with a short descent to stage finish in the Tallangatta Valley.  A good warm up stage with not much need for precise high speed braking judgement.”

Redhead/Winwood-Smith set the pace for the event with a 13.04 to Stratford/Staltari on 13.17 and Lee/Lethlean 13.27.  In VCRS Thomas/Crowe also lead from the front with 13.30 to Wald/Elliott 13.58 with Semmens/Parry close behind on 14.04. Ellis/Ellis did not get to the start of the stage with an electrical problem, but started Heat 2.  Yendle/Norris left the road, but could not get back on under their own steam, and Calwell/Sheehy had a mechanical failure.

Lee/Lethlean on the attack on the first corner of the opening stage on their way to a fine 2nd outright

Stage 2 – 28.7 km, Cravensville, along with stage 3 had not been used since 2021, and had the following advice for competitors: “The open road through farmland that you see from the start line only lasts about 2 km before entering the forest with a twisty climb, including a rough patch of roadworks, up onto the Gibb Range, where the road flattens out with a fast-flowing run north towards Shelley.  Strategic fuel break works have improved visibility markedly, but there are still plenty of big solid trees close to the road edge.  The roads are generally earthen base, so if by any chance it is wet, then they could be tricky.  This and the following stage used to form part of the traditional Alpine night stage back to Bright from Shelley Plantation.”

Fastest was Stratford/Staltari on 19.21 to Lee/Lethlean 19.27 and Crozier/Crozier on 19.40.  In VCRS it was again Thomas/Crowe a long way out in front on 19.18 to Wald/Elliott 20.09 and Semmens/Parry 20.18.  Hocking/Hocking gave it away here with no oil in the Falcon, along with Martin/Fernie with fuel pump failure and Coleman/Watson did a gearbox.

Only a short liaison followed, including a remote refuel before tackling the fast 14.0 km Koetong stage, where advice for competitors was: “After checking and topping up with fuel if necessary, this stage continues along the Cravensville Rd to the west then north to Koetong.  The surface is slippery granite when dry, grippy granite when moist and very slippery granite when wet.  Where it passes through two plantations the surface is solid bluestone metal, with an exciting long straight through the open first plantation with no huge eucalypt trees in sight.”

Stratford/Staltari at 8.21 knocked off Redhead/Winwood by one second to Crozier/Crozier on 8.25. In VCRS, Thomas/Crowe ripped out a control arm, and limped to the halfway, where they retired, leaving Wald/Elliott to score fastest on 8.54 by three seconds to Shepherd/Shepherd and Blum/Kent in an Excel on 9.08.

A longish liaison followed back down along the Mitta River valley to the new 15.7 km Tallandoon stage, which did not get run last year. Advice for competitors was: “A new stage, with the first ten km all new along the narrow Yabba Link and Tallandoon Tracks which climb up, then follow the ridgeline, ducking and diving over crests up to the saddle where the course joins the latter part of traditional Bullhead stages to descend, negotiating two hairpin lefts, before exiting the forest back onto a shire lane with views of Mt Bogong and a fast run to the finish past spectators who have trudged some distance across the paddocks to get a good view of the action. Beware the final bend before the flying finish, with its narrow culvert.”

O’Hagan/Moynihan on their way to 3rd outright and 1st 2WD

Stratford/Staltari were again fastest on 11.51, this time to Crozier/Crozier on 12.22 and Lee/Lethlean on 12.30.  In VCRS, Wald/Elliott took it out on 13.08 to Semmens/Parry 3.18 and the emerging Linaker/Thomas on 13.28.

Seymour/Grant failed to finish this stage with drive belt problems, but managed to fix and start Heat 2. Heat 1 was won by Stratford/Staltari in VRC, and Redhead/Winwood-Smith in ECCRS 4wd and Clarke/Preston in ECCRS 2wd.

Heat 2 began with a new stage, 13.3 km Trappers Up, used before many times in the opposing downhill direction, but very popular uphill.   Advice for competitors was: “A nice warm up after lunch on a new stage, that has been used before in the opposite direction as the event finale of the very long and final Dorchap Range and Bogong stages.  So, no need for chicanes this way. Mainly uphill, in and out of gullies and around the ends of spurs, with a little downhill section after the cattle grid down to the new Lord Creek bridge.”

Fastest was Stratford/Staltari on 10.10 to Lee/Lethlean 10.27 and an on the charge Clarke/Preston on 10.48.  In VCRS Semmens/Parry and Linaker/Thomas tied on 12.24 to Wald/Elliott, five seconds adrift.  Crozier/Crozier’s fine run ended here with a control arm bolt failure, along with Hubbert/Zachariah with a clutch issue.

A rugged liaison followed down into the Snowy Creek West Branch and up onto the Granite Flat Spur running off Mt Bogong, to the new 20.8 km The Hollow Way stage.  Advice to competitors was: “A new stage starting at the foot of Mt Bogong where keen walkers begin their ascent of Victoria’s highest mountain. Has been used before in the opposite direction as part of long Bogong and The Hollow stages. The rougher part of those stages has been converted to liaison due to incomplete roadworks.  There is very little climbing, but a lot of brake burning descending down the old logging road, opening out for the last km through farmland”.

Stage places reflected the outright order with Stratford/Staltari on 17.53 to Lee/Lethlean 18.02 and Redhead/Winwood-Smith on 18.08. In VCRS, Wald/Elliott finished off with 18.55 to Semmens/Parry 19.03 and only two seconds behind, Blum/Kent in the diminutive Hyundai Excel.  Being mostly downhill may have helped them. Clarke/Preston’s charge ended here when they nudged off the road and could not get back on.

VCRS returned to Mitta here, while many of the remaining competitors needed a remote refuel before tackling the final 37.0 km Razorback stage.  Advice for competitors was: “The tradition continues of saving the longest stage until the final stage.  Commences with a fast, narrow, cresty run through the snow gums, and then opens up onto a wider road, graded since we last used it, through the alpine ash forests along the Razorback Spur ridge before a long twisty descent down to Snowy Creek.  Beware the sharp bends around the ends of spurs and red earth patches if wet on the descent.  There are glimpses to be had of Mt Bogong and Mt Wills to the West and the Dartmouth Dam to the East. Spectators will be gathered on the final corner of the event.”

Stratford/Staltari maintained their pace being way quickest on 28.50 to a fast-finishing Till/Garrad recovering from earlier issues on 30.21 and Seymour/Grant only one second behind in their Ford fiesta, recovering from a Heat 1 DNF.  Leoncini/Leoncini retired here with electrical problems, Burn/Sitaram blew the engine in their Excel and Lawarnce/Davison suffered from lack of fuel through the fuel pump.

Stratford/Staltari made a clean sweep taking out VRC Heat 2, while O’Hagan/Moynihan won the Heat in ECCRS 2wd and Mill/Barr-Smith took out ECCRS 4wd.

The champagne presentation and spray were held for outright and VCRS podium places at parc ferme on the edge of the oval below rally base with the scenic backdrop of Mt Welcome.

Provisional results were posted at 7.30 pm as the basis for award of trophies for VRC, ECCRS and VCRS outright and classes to take place later outside that evening at the Mitta Pub, preceded by some great footage of the day’s action on the big screen courtesy of Jake Lucas. The traditional Mitta vases were presented by sponsors; Chris Aggenbach from Aggenbach Flooring, Tod Reed from Wodonga Car World and Gordon Douglas from Border Oils and Batteries.

The event coordinator Ross Runnalls acknowledged a huge team that included: Brian Royal- Road Secretary, Tod Reed – Road Director, Steve Roman – Equipment, Brenton Kaitler – Entries Secretary, Jodi Mann – Officials, Col Elliott – Clerk of Course, Ian Douglas – Radio, Ron Harper – Checker, Kim Winks – CRO, Warren Brown – Radio network, Trevor and Andrew Woods – Scorers,

Stage commanders – Mark Richards/Grant Heywood, Steve Roman/Ray Wingrave, Steuart Snooks/Max Carmody, Steve Dunbar/Rob Jefferies, Ben Arnold/John Carney, Tom Kaitler/Syd Smith, Mel Stoodley, and Chris Aggenbach, Service Park and Parc Ferme.

Course cars, 0 Braeden Kendrick, 000 David West, 999 Kev Battocchio, Sweep Mick Carey, and Recovery 1 and 2 Ben Quick, Luke Webster and MIV crews: Ian Enders/Andrea Box, Matt Webster/Maggie Bromley, Jim Reeves/Greg Kay, Frank O’Brien/Grant Parker, Peter Lock/Winton Hare.

Award Winners


VRC Outright

1st                                            Adrian Stratford / Anthony Staltari – Ford Fiesta

2nd                                            Warren Lee / David Lethlean – Mitsubishi Lancer

3rd                                            Michael O’Hagan / Eoin Moynihan – Ford Escort



1st                                            Michael O’Hagan / Eoin Moynihan – Ford Escort

2nd                                            Ross Stapleton / Peter Ellis – Nissan 200SX

3rd                                            Tom West / Jack West – Ford Fiesta


VRC Classes

1st Novice                                 Lucas Reed / Will Murphy – Hyundai Excel

1st Excel Vic                              Lucas Reed / Will Murphy – Hyundai Excel

1st PN 2 under 1600                  Tom West / Jack West – Ford Fiesta

1st PN 3 1600-2000                   Robert Gorst / Joanna Gorst – Datsun 1600

1st PN 4 over 2000                    Ross Stapleton / Peter Ellis – Nissan 200SX

1st PN 5 modern 4wd                 Warren Lee / David Lethlean – Mitsubishi Lancer

1st PN 6 older 4wd                     Josh Redhead / Ray Winwood-Smith – Mitsubishi Lancer GSR


East Coast Classic Rally Series


1st 2WD                                    Michael O’Hagan / Eoin Moynihan – Ford Escort

1st 4WD                                    Josh Redhead / Ray Winwood-Smith – Mitsubishi Lancer GSR

Mitta Mountain Rally


VCRS Outright

1st                                             Joel Wald / Cathy Elliott – Datsun Stanza

2nd                                            Brian Semmens / Dan Parry – Nissan 200SX

3rd                                            Dale Linaker / Craig Thomas – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7



1st                                             Joel Wald / Cathy Elliott – Datsun Stanza

2nd                                            Brian Semmens / Dan Parry – Nissan 200SX



VCRS Classes

1st Novice                                 Tim Shepherd / Bruce Shepherd – BMW 130I

1st Class A <1400cc                 Michael Trucano / Heli – Thaw Datsun Sunny

1st Class B 1400 to 1600cc        Ged Blum / Paul Kent – Hyundai Excel

1st Class C 1600-2000cc            Ben Marron / Matt deVaus – Mitsubishi Galant

1st Class D >2000cc                  Joel Wald / Cathy Elliott – Datsun Stanza

1st class E 4WD                        Dale Linaker / Craig Thomas – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7

1st Junior Cup                           Ben Marron