The battle for the CAMS Australian Rally Championship (ARC) is set to heat up in the forests around Canberra at this weekend’s National Capital Rally.
Coffs Coast Rally Team’s Nathan Quinn leads the championship after two rounds, six points clear of current champion Subaru do Motorsport’s Molly Taylor and a further 12 points clear of Toyota Genuine Parts’ Harry Bates.
Quinn said holding the championship lead has changed his approach to round three of the ARC.
“I didn’t think that leading the championship would change the approach but it kind of has,” Quinn said.
“We went to Ballarat wanting to be quickest and we were very close to that. In WA we weren’t quickest and while personally it was an unsatisfying weekend, the consistency paid off and I know that I should be grateful for how it turned out.
“Going to the National Capital Rally we probably do have to think about protecting that championship lead and being a bit consistent. It is exciting and it would be nice to stay in the lead after this round but realistically I would be happy to be sitting in the top three.”
Quinn, who welcomes the return of David Calder to the co-driver’s seat, believes that Tankformers’ Eli Evans and co-driver Glen Weston may well be the ones to beat this weekend.
“If Eli is going well with the Mini, I think he will be the one to beat. Between Harry (Bates), Molly (Taylor) and I we have consistency and reliability. Eli can run his race and I’ll sit back and wait.”
Subaru do Motorsport’s Molly Taylor, with co-driver Bill Hayes, is thrilled with the progress of the Subaru Impreza STi following the win at the WA Forest Rally.
“Everyone is in good spirits after all the hard work that went on between Ballarat and WA to pay off with a fast car, but we certainly haven’t become complacent, we know it doesn’t come easily and there is plenty to improve,” Taylor said.
“WA showed the real potential of the car, probably more than we had hoped for; for it come together that consistently was awesome.”
Taylor agreed that she, and her fellow drivers, were thriving on the close competition in the ARC this year.
“Getting to the end of the stage and knowing that you have tried everything in that stage to win, being forced to push to that level; it’s so rewarding to earn the win on the stage. It’s what we love to do and what made the win in WA all the more special.”
Asked if consistency or outright pace would win the championship this year, Taylor said:
“Consistency is really important in a championship, we proved that last year; it was something that we were conscious of and it paid off for us. But between Harry, Eli, Nathan, Brad the pace is pretty fast; if you relax at all you are going to be fifth so still need to push if you want to win.”
Taylor said that the key was to keep the focus on yourself.
“Keeping the pressure on, driving at that level and getting the best out of the car; its the best place to be a driver. If you start thinking about other drivers, the championship, that’s when you start to come undone.”
Toyota Genuine Parts’ Harry Bates returns to the Canberra round for the third time, with great memories of his podium on debut at the event in 2015.
“My first ARC event was in Canberra two years ago and we managed to score a podium on debut, so aside from being my home rally, this event has some good memories for us,” Bates said.
Bates and co-driver John McCarthy are looking for a strong result in Canberra after a mechanical failure in heat two put paid to this chances of a win at the WA Forest Rally.
“We hit a rock that was in the middle of the road on the morning loop of day two, and this pushed the sump guard up in to the sump, damaging the oil pump, ultimately causing the engine to be starved of oil,” explained Bates.
"It was a shocking case of bad luck, and something that damaged our championship hopes for sure, but this is the way it goes sometimes. It wasn't supposed to be easy!”
Bates said that Canberra is always a challenging event.
“The two days are completely different, almost like two totally different rallies in one, so that makes it difficult for finding the correct car set up. The roads to the west of the city which will make up day two are probably the most narrow and twisty in the championship.”
A high-quality field of 49 entries will compete in the National Capital Rally, round two of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, round three of CAMS Australian Rally Championship, and a round of the NSW Rally Championship and the ACT Regional Rally Series.
The National Capital Rally kicks off today at 6pm with a ceremonial start at Burbury Close, Barton. Heats one and two will take place on Saturday 27 May and Sunday 28 May respectively. For further information visit www.rally.com.au.