The Netier National Capital Rally has finally arrived with some of the best rally drivers in Australia to do battle in the first ever RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Cup this weekend.
Taking place around the forests of Canberra, 24 national crews will compete in the two-day national competition with more than 126 competitive kilometres across 16 stages making up the sole national rally in 2020.
The entry list features a number of heavy hitters from the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally (ARC), which includes the likes of reigning champion Harry Bates, Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammate Lewis Bates, 2016 ARC champion Molly Taylor, Chris Higgs, Luke Anear and a new name in gravel rally, Tony Quinn – all of whom would be considering themselves as a small chance to at least end the weekend on the podium.
A few dark horses would also consider themselves a chance to snag a stage win including Tom Clarke, Clayton Hoy and JJ Hatton, who is entered in just his second rally in 12 months this weekend.
Piloting the Hyundai i20 alongside Nathan Long, Hatton may possess a lot of raw talent behind the wheel but remains coy about where he stacks up against his rivals.
“I’m looking forward to it and I can’t wait but I’m slightly nervous to be honest,” Hatton said.
“I’m a bit rusty but it will be a bit like riding a bike whereby once I get into the car, I’m sure I’m just going to hit top gear straight off the bat.
“I will always have a crack at it because it’s not like I’m only out there for fun. The fun happens as well but I always drive my own rally. So, sometimes I come along and win stages and sometimes I don’t but I’m definitely hoping for at least a top five this weekend.
“Outside of the obvious, Molly will be tough, as will Tom Clarke, who is getting super-fast in that Evo. In saying that, Tom and Canberra don’t get along that often. But I guess we’ll see how we go.”
The Cup isn’t the only class to keep an eye on throughout the weekend with Higgs headlining the Hoosier Challenge field and Clarke leading the 29 crew MTA Motorsport Australia NSW Rally Championship.
With those in the Hoosier Challenge to be battling it out for a free round in next year’s ARC and three drivers in the running for the NSW title, which is run just on Saturday – there will certainly be some drama this weekend.
One driver hoping to be on the right side of the results come Saturday night is Clarke. Heading into the round just four points ahead of Tony Sullens in second place, Clarke will also have his hands full ahead of Mal Keough.
For Clarke, this weekend’s serves as an opportunity to claim some state silverware and to prepare for the 2021 ARC season.
“It will be good to get Canberra under the belt, especially since it is the first round of the year in 2021 and I plan to do every round next year,” Clarke said.
“As for this weekend, it’s going to be massive and very competitive at the front, both with the Bates brothers and Molly who are very quick in Canberra.
“It’s a really good event. It has its challenges and it’s a rally that takes a few prisoners. I know this because I have I have been one of them in the past. The roads are good but tough, which is what you want.
“We have a four point lead over Tony so the state title is definitely achievable. We have the speed there and have the pace over the rest of the competitors. We need to be third or better to win NSW and we’ll see if we can make a podium for the ARC.”
Rally fans can stay up to date with the event through the live ARC blog throughout the whole weekend via rally.com.au as well as live streams via the ARC Facebook page at various points of the rally.
The Netier National Capital Rally and RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Cup takes place in Canberra on 27-29 November.
Photos: Wishart Media