Ballarat: The battle at the front of the field in the opening round of the 2017 CAMS Australian Rally Championship (ARC), the Eureka Rally, has been incredibly tense this morning with just 16.3 seconds separating the top three cars.
Despite the pre-event predictions of a tussle between Taylor, Bates and Evans, it is Coffs Harbour’s Nathan Quinn who has eased to a 6.2 second lead in the event. Quinn, as the current NSW Rally Champion, is stepping up to the ARC this year and is proving he can be very fast. “It has been a good morning but it’s early days yet” Quinn said.
Harry Bates had a clean run this morning and will be battling hard to close the gap to Quinn. “My morning has been pretty good. The roads are very slippery and dust has been a problem”, Bates said.
Currently sitting in third is triple Australian Rally Champion, Eli Evans. Evans isn’t driving his new Mini Cooper as he ran out of time to complete the car. The car is now likely to debut at the 2nd round of the ARC in Western Australia in a few weeks.
In a show of sportsmanship, Evans is driving the Peugeot Maxi car that Ballarat local Aaron Windus had intended to run. Despite no time to test the car, Evans is only 10.1 seconds behind Bates. “I made a small mistake this morning but otherwise I am happy, particularly with the new MRF tyres” Evans said.
Local driver Aaron Windus’s run in a borrowed car has been outstanding and he is currently in fourth place, as competition resumes this afternoon.
Defending champion, Molly Taylor had a fraught morning battling an issue with a differential. The problem has Taylor sitting 2 minutes behind the leader. With a podium unlikely at this point, Taylor intends to battle on and finish as high as she can to score as many points as possible for her title defense. “And I will spend the rest of the event learning more about the car and the MRF tyres.” Taylor said.
Another driver who encountered problems in the morning loop, is Canberran Lewis Bates, brother to second placed Harry. Sliding wide on a corner, the youngest Bates beached his car on a gravel bank and was unable to get back on the road. The heat from the exhaust ignited the tinder dry undergrowth and the ensuing fire destroyed his car.
The competitors complete a second pass over the same stages this afternoon, with everyone expecting times to be faster now that the loose gravel has been swept of the road.
Competitors return to the Rally Hub in Victoria Park about 5:30pm ahead of a two-hour service and overnight impound.