The 2018 CAMS Australian Rally Championship featured arguably some of the closest competition in recent years.
Eli Evans, Harry Bates, Steve Glenney and Molly Taylor all pushed each other to the limit at the pointy end of the field with only the smallest of margins separating the winners on some stages.
The quality of competition was also highlighted on two stages this year, where posted times were identical for Bates and Glenney in The Courier Eureka Rally’s final stage, and Bates and Evans at the BOTT Adelaide Hills Rally.
As expected, 2018 Australian Rally Champion Evans took the lion’s share of the 107 stage wins on offer, fastest on 54 stages over the six rounds. Next best was Bates showcasing the speed of the Yaris AP4 with 40 stage wins.
Provisional Standings after SS3
1️⃣ Hatton 30:12.1
2️⃣ H. Bates +2.3
3️⃣ Morton +1:05.6
4️⃣ Anear +1:06.8
5️⃣ Penny +2:41.0
6️⃣ Kaplan +3:03.2
7️⃣ Heuchan +3:10.4
8️⃣ Glenney +3:23.1
9️⃣ Collits +4:40.3
🔟 Dunn +5:10.7
— CAMS Australian Rally Championship (@RallyComAu) November 16, 2018
Eventual ARC runner-up Glenney claimed 13, eight of them at Kennards Hire Rally Australia, while the 2016 champion in Taylor consistently ran in the top three throughout the year, but only managed one stage win in the first round.
The only other driver to break into this elite circle was JJ Hatton at Rally Australia.
Hatton burst out of the blocks on the first day of the World Rally Championship round on the Coffs Coast and found himself fastest on the third stage of the day, Sherwood 1.
The stage win put him second outright and only seven seconds behind then-leader Bates.
Unfortunately Hatton’s run was derailed with suspension damage just two stages later. Hatton and co-driver Nathan Long persisted throughout the three-day event to eventually finish ninth outright.
Justin Hatton literally taking his Evo to the bank!
— CAMS Australian Rally Championship (@RallyComAu) November 17, 2018
It was a brilliant effort from Hatton, who was behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, a car considerably longer in the tooth than its rivals.
“It felt good to win the stage, but it would have been even nicer if I had a better result overall,” Hatton said.
“I didn’t know how well I had done until I completed the stage, saw the time and thought it was a great effort.
“I think if I put a bit more of an effort throughout the following stages, I could have done much better.
“I probably didn’t realise how good I went because I drive at what I’m comfortable at and I wasn’t really chasing anyone due to my target in Molly Taylor being out of the rally by that point.”
This memorable moment is a part of a special CAMS Australian Rally Championship Top-10 countdown series recapping an entertaining 2018 season.