Harry Bates has blown pre-rally predictions out of the water at the Quit Forest Rally taking Heat One victory in Nannup, Western Australia today. Contesting the Quit Forest Rally for the first time, and only his fifth Australian Rally Championship® event, the result was unexpected even for Bates who aside from testing on Wednesday had never driven on the slippery ball-bearing roads the area is famous for.
“This is better than we could have hoped,” Bates said. “Realistically I thought a top three finish was possible but even that could have been a struggle given the level of depth in the Championship, so to go and win a couple of stages this morning was a but of a surprise and something that I had to manage this afternoon,” he continued.
Running as fifth car on the road, Bates took full advantage of the swept roads throughout the morning stages extending his lead to 21.4 seconds by the conclusion of SS6 before an off-road excursion on SS7 had him worried that he’d blown it all.
“I almost threw it all away, I just came down and un-braked myself plain and simple. I remembered the corner from the first pass and thought potentially I could brake a little bit later, but not that late, so went off the road about 20 or 30 meters. At the time I thought I had cost us the Heat but we had a really good run through Ferndale (SS8) and then held ourselves together over the short stages around Nannup,” Bates said.
Four-time Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans and his co-driver Ben Searcy pushed Bates throughout the day but had the difficult job of being first car on the road and sweeping the surface for the rest of the field. They finished Heat One in second outright.
“I feel satisfied, we drove hard and yeah we had a bit of a disadvantage sweeping the roads but that’s just part of being car one on the road,” Evans said. “Harry did a great job, my hat goes off to him because you have to be a decent driver to get a good result here and he’s proven he’s got the talent. Hell he might even be better than his dad (Australian rally legend Neal Bates)”, Evans he joked.
Mark Pedder and Dale Moscatt finished third outright ahead of the crews of Molly Taylor/Bill Hayes, Justin Dowel/Toni Feaver and Tom Wilde/Nick Clements.
In the Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship drama for leading crews Sean Keating/Caleb Ash and Brad Markovic/Glenn Macneall during the morning stages left the field wide open and ultimately it was Mike Young/Cameron Tunstall who took the Heat One honours.
“We definitely weren’t expecting to come out with a win today, this weekend was about dusting off the cobwebs before the opening round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in New Zealand next weekend.
The crews of Oxley/Wood and Garry Whittle/Stephan Vass rounded out the top three for the Heat.
In the Australian Classic Challenge Neal Bates and Coral Taylor took Heat One honours finishing more than 5 minutes ahead of the nearest rivals John Ludlam/Justin Willis in second and Andy van Kann/Madelin Kirkhouse in third.