AUSTRALIAN 4WD rally champion Richie Dalton has pulled the pin on his title defense, choosing family over motor racing and taking 2015 off to refocus for a possible bigger and better assault on the outright title in the future.
“The short answer is I won’t be rallying this year,” Richie said. “I’m due to get married at the end of the year, so I’m going to focus my time this year on family and my business.”
The news will come as a disappointment for fans of the Irishman’s flamboyant style that saw him blitz the competition at Rally Australia and Rally Victoria to come out on the top in the Mitsubishi versus Subaru battle.
“I’m not overly disappointed not to be coming back to defend the title, mainly because I’m still so new to rallying I was surprised to be this successful this early on. To take the year off feels like the pressure is off me, it means I can concentrate on other things away from motor sport and then come back properly.”
So what does the immediate future hold for Dalton and his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9? “For 2015 nothing. With the changes to the regulations I look at this year as a transition year for the sport, but I’ll be watching closely from the sidelines,” he said.
“I know the Evo is still a competitive car, I just don’t know how competitive it will be against the cars that are coming into the Championship like Justin Dowel’s Dytko, the S2000 Mark Pedder is running and rumours of Maxi cars too.”
“So if I have this year off, and I look at cars that are going to be competitive for me for the future, I think that’s a pretty wise move. That (Dytko) car of Justin’s runs Evo 10 running gear, and I’ve learnt there is a company in Europe that builds a (Ford) Fiesta like the World Rally Car that uses Evo 9 running gear like my car so maybe that’s a good option for me.”
Does 2016 look like the year Dalton will re-emerge onto the Australian Rally Championship scene then? “I can’t say for sure,” he said. “I might take a year off, I might take three or four years off. I look at a guy like Justin Dowel, the 2011 Australian Rally Champion, and he’s taken time away from the sport and he’s still as fast as ever.”
“When I do decide to come back though I want to be outright competitive, I want to be fighting it out for the title. So I can’t say when I’ll be back for sure, but I will definitely be back, there is no question about that,” Richie promised.