With just 3.6 seconds separating the Production Rally Car (PRC) class All-Wheel Drive WRX STI of Molly Taylor and the Toyota Corolla of Harry Bates after eight stages, it came down to two 0.85 kilometres blasts around Nannup Oval to confirm Subaru do’s winning status – by a margin of just 3.1 seconds.
The four afternoon stages produced drama on the repeat of the long-haul 21.33 kilometre SS8 Ferndale 2.
With Taylor and co-drive Bill Hayes second on stage, with a margin of just 7.1 seconds separating them from the top-placed Bates, their time was sufficient to elevate Subaru do to overall first.
However, an incident on SS8 with Marcus Walkem rolling his Lancer – reportedly without serious injury – led to cancellation of the stage and nominal times being allocated to the balance of competitors.
The Nannup Oval circuits were insufficient for Bates to close the margin – leaving Taylor and Hayes with Heat One honours.
Molly said: “It’s been a really exciting day and we feel like we really nailed our performance.
“We swapped the lead a few times and it’s been fun to have such a tight battle with Harry and Eli (Evans).
“We just focused on each stage at a time and it’s a strategy that really paid dividends for us today.
“And of course, we can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow!”
The Heat began well for the team, lying third after two quick blasts around Busselton’s Barnard Park last night, which pointed to early promise for Saturday’s stages.
The fine form continued over the quartet of morning stages, with a clear statement of intent coming on the day’s equal longest stage, 21.33 kilometre SS4 Ferndale 1, with Subaru do taking first place.
A tight tussle with Evans saw him take out the following stage with an overall 4.2 second margin over Taylor.
But a second place for Subaru do on the morning’s final stage, SS6 Ellis 1, was sufficient to give the team first place going into midday service.
From then, Taylor kept the pressure applied in a strategy that reaped the Heat One honours.
Heat Two starts tonight with a single 5.28 km run around Busselton’s Barnard Park, then a further eight stages out of Nannup tomorrow.