Harry Bates and his co-driver John McCarthy have opened up a comfortable lead midway through Heat One of the Quit Forest Rally, the opening round of the Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship® (ARC) today.
Bates, who is driving the infamous Western Australian forest roads in Nannup for the first time, has been impressive throughout the morning stages and now leads his nearest rival by 21.4seconds.
“I’m feeling really good, that last loop was quite comfortable for us and we’ve made some improvements on the car which was really nice so we’re going to go into this afternoon with the same set up and see what we can do,” Bates said.
Crews are now heading out to contest the final four stages of Heat One and Bates says he is keeping his expectations in check with SS7 and SS8 both being repeated stages which will remove the advantage he had running further down the field this morning.
“We’re going to have to manage our expectations this afternoon, Simon (Evans) will be going out onto a swept road this time rather than an un-swept one so I think we’d expect him to be much faster, but we have a 20 second lead now which is really, really nice to have and we’re going to see how we can go about keeping it,” Bates continued.
Evans is all too aware of how this rally can catch you out if you push too hard but that’s never stoped the four-time Australian Rally Champion who will be looking to make up for time lost during the morning stages – where he has been left the difficult job of sweeping the roads for the competitors following.
“We’re going to be about 40 seconds quicker I reckon. I said to Benny (co-driver Ben Searcy) we just have to stay in the window, as long as we don’t let them get too far ahead of us then we’ll just have a crack when it’s all cleaned up,” Evans said.
Sitting in third - almost a minute behind Evans - is Mark Pedder/Dale Moscatt with Molly Taylor/Bill Hayes fourth and Justin Dowel/Toni Feaver rounding out the top five ARC crews.
The rally is over for the West Australian crew of Brad Markovic and Glen Macneall who suffered a mechanical failure which ended in fire destroying all hopes of a good finish at their home event.
The pairing of Stephen Oxley and Michael Wood lead the top competitors in the Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship (WARC) more than 10 seconds in front of the nearest crew Mike Young/Cameron Tunstall.
With four stages left to complete Craig Wimbridge/Kirsty Moore sit in third outright with defending event and WARC Champions Garry Whittle/Stephen Vass not far behind in fourth.
Quit Forest Rally is being held in Busselton and Nannup from the 22nd – 24th of April 2016. The event is the opening round of the Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship® and the Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship.