Getting Shafted at the Mineshaft
It was an icon on the Australian rally scene.
Sure, the classic yumps and jumps of the Bunnings Stage at Perth’s iteration of Rally Australia were memorable, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the longevity, the legend, and the carnage of the Mineshaft on the Rally of Canberra.
Situated half an hour south-west of Canberra along the awesome Paddy’s River Road towards Tidbinbilla, the Mineshaft was the go-to spectator point of any rally through the forestry outside of Canberra.
Unlike Any Other…
These days, cars cannot commute the Mineshaft, with ACT forestry rangers curtailing its use after bush bashing four-wheel drivers ruined it for safe use.
That said, the geological oddity had already been bypassed from rally route books since around 2013, with safety coming to the forefront for event organisers.
Originally, it was an extra-steep, tight ribbon of road, reportedly rutted from rainfall when events in the 1970s visited such as the Don Capasco Rally and the Castrol International Rally.
However, over time the verges widened out and the landing area at the bottom cleared and flattened, with regular logging from time to time removing many of the trees throughout the area that could be used as reference markers by drivers.
It wasn’t a jump as much as it was a drop off a cliff face, with best estimates having it as twice as steep down as The Cutting at Bathurst is up.
Australian Rally Champion Cody Crocker was one to master the Mineshaft.
In this excellent feature in RallySport Magazine, the three times Australian Rally Champion recounts his attempt to coach his rookie Indonesian teammate Rifat Sungkar through the obstacle.
“(Rifat) wanted to know what speed to go over it at, and I told him I’ve never been able to look at the speedo in a rally so I don’t know. I remember once in recce I was doing around 80km/h and just lifted a wheel off the ground so I told him that 90k’s is about the max speed,” said Crocker.
“Rifat thought this was a good idea and decided to add a few k’s to that. His jump was one of the biggest ever and he also landed near the bottom – and the car survived.
“When he finally came clean, he declared that he might have added around 30km/h to my speed and hence jumped a bit further than planned.
“It’s definitely one of the most thrilling pieces of road anywhere in the world and will always be one of the most challenging jumps to attack. I rate it as 10 out of 10 for excitement for both driver and spectator.”
Sadly, the concrete barriers that once corralled spectators are now placed strategically across the road, blocking any further recreation of the heroics of years past.
However, the internet is still sprinkled with memories from wild times when drivers pushed the absolute limits.
The moonscape left behind by the devastating fires made for an incredible rally…
Following the horrible 2003 bushfires, the landscape surrounding Canberra was very, very different.
When the 2004 Subaru Rally of Canberra rolled around, the local leg of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship combined with an ARC round, the author decided to make the trip south, largely to visit my old man, who was sequestered to Canberra on government duties, but more genuinely because return Virgin airfares from Brisbane came in at $60.
Why would I remember an inconsequential figure like that? Read on…
The rally was noteworthy for dust, oh so much dust, but also the incredible sightlines caused by the felling of vast swathes of forest following the earlier inferno.
From some of the spectator points, you could follow multiple cars for kilometres at a time, until they would inevitably choke on the dirt clouds.
Like everyone else with a camera, we headed out to the Mineshaft to catch the Sunday pass through the area.
I remember distinctly having a game plan – I would use my photographic accreditation privileges to scale to the top of the hill, and shoot the cars from behind as they sailed over the lip – it would be safer there, as cars tend not to roll uphill.
However, when I arrived on site, the officials in attendance were keen to advise me that my lowly pleb FIA Grade 3 media pass would not in fact let me go to the top of the hill, and I was only allowed in the concrete-encased box at the bottom of the slope.
Ok, that’s fine, it was my backup choice, anyways.
Standing in my cage all alone (there apparently weren’t many other amateur grade photogs in attendance), I couldn’t help but notice at my feet lodged in the ground was a Datsun 1600 headlight, a door handle of some description, and various other pieces of shrapnel left behind after multiple past misadventures.
Right. Now I’m nervous.
The cavalcade of zero cars streamed through before the leading A-Pac cars roared into view.
Karamjit Singh was first to take to the ramp, and he was well in control, while Katsuhiko Taguchi certainly got a small quantity of air under his MRF EVO VIII, above left.
Cody Crocker was next up and had things in check, while Chris Atkinson in the mighty Suzuki Ignis S1600 pocket rocket was the most spectacular of the lot, above right.
The fifth car through was Kevin Shaw, and unfortunately, things went full Mineshaft very quickly.
I managed to snap three photos of the sequence of the Evo flying down the hill, with the fourth photo not happening as I set a personal best for running in a photo vest.
Landing on its nose, Shaw immediately lost feeling in his lower extremities, before he pulled to the side of the road to seek medical attention.
Ultimately, he would walk away from a hospital check, but the remaining cars through the Mineshaft were slowed down by the officials stationed at the top while the medics swung into action.
I am sure I wasn’t the only punter in attendance that felt a little shafted that day.
And the $60? Auto Action paid $20 a photo for the three pics in the sequence, which were plastered in the next edition’s glossy photo spread.
At least it turned out to be a cheap weekend away…