2018 Moments #2: Bates SA victory sets up Rally Aus showdown

At the end of four rounds, the 2018 CAMS Australian Rally Championship (ARC) was looking pretty good for Eli Evans and Ben Searcy. 

The pair had dominated the second and third ARC rounds, in Western Australia and Canberra with only Harry Bates their only rival to get close in Netier National Capital Rally. 

Subaru Rally Tasmania was not without its issues for Evans and Searcy, an off-road excursion on day two costing them the heat win, but it was another event victory for the pair in the Skoda Fabia R5, which saw Evans earn a 51-point lead in the title standings.

There was a chance for Evans and Searcy to wrap up the Championship at the BOTT Adelaide Hills Rally but an uncharacteristic error by Evans on the penultimate stage of heat one threw a spanner in the works. On the 37-kilometre Monaro Mega stage, Evans clipped a tree and their Skoda suffered rear suspension damage, forcing the Championship leaders to limp back to service for repairs.

Although able to finish the heat, the result for Evans was thirteenth outright in heat one with plenty of work to do in heat two.

Bates and McCarthy, who had already been leading the heat by just two seconds from Evans and Searcy heading into the last two stages of the day, took full advantage, claiming the heat win by 56 seconds from Steve Glenney and Andy Sarandis.

Despite Evans winning the first two stages of the day, Bates hit back taking the third stage, before the title rivals tied for time on the fourth stage of the heat.

Bates finished heat two with three stage wins but was still 18 seconds adrift of Evans at the end of heat two.

The heat went to Evans and Searcy but the round win was Bates and McCarthy’s Toyota Yaris AP4, with Molly Taylor and Malcolm Read in second and Evans and Searcy eventually finished third.

Bates’ South Australian success set up a mouthwatering four-way battle for the title at Kennards Hire Rally Australia. Evans would take a commanding 57-point lead to the finale, with Bates, Glenney and Taylor all in with a shot at the 2018 Championship.