Harry Bates and Coral Taylor begin title defence with Canberra win

Harry Bates and Coral Taylor have enjoyed the perfect start to their Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) title defence after a dominant victory at the Techworkz Automotive Rally of Canberra.

Click here to watch Sunday’s full highlights on 7plus.

Although Saturday’s competition was cancelled due to heavy rain, reducing the event to just Sunday’s Heat, the best rally drivers in the country were able to put on a show across Sunday’s six challenging forest stages.

It was the reigning champions who proved too strong throughout the day, as Bates and Taylor picked up a clean sweep of stages, capped off by the Galvaniize Insurance Power Stage victory on Sunday afternoon.

Taking out second place were Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammates Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin, who finished more than a minute off the leaders, while IntelliSpatial Fleetcare Racing’s Alex Rullo and Steve Glenney rounded out the podium.

Right from the get-go, Harry and Taylor proved just too good for the field, as they charged out to a 30 second lead after two stages, before extending their lead out to 40 seconds at the end of the morning’s first loop of stages.

Behind them, Lewis and McLoughlin had fallen to third on the standings after Pedders Suspension and Brakes’ Scott Pedder and Glenn Macneall went five seconds faster on SS3 to go into the first service break in second place.

Photos: CarsMosport

Pedder then built a buffer over Lewis in the afternoon’s first stage to 10 seconds after coming to within five tenths of Harry, before a puncture on the next stage all but ruined Pedder’s hopes of second place – dropping to fifth place.

The puncture gave Lewis some breathing space for the final stage, and elevated Rullo and Glenney to the podium, who had found themselves in an entertaining battle with Eddie Maguire and Zak Brakey of Maguire Motorsport, that went all the way down to the final stage.

Although Pedder’s puncture ended his hopes of starting the season on a high and dropped to fifth overall behind Rullo and Maguire, there was some solace to his day, as he finished second in the Galvaniize Insurance Power Stage to score valuable points.

Taking out maximum points on the final stage was Harry and Taylor, who couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year.

Click here to watch Sunday’s full highlights on 7plus.

“Toyota Gazoo Racing overseas really wanted this win because it’s a new car for them and this is only the third chassis they’ve built, so it’s a big deal for them to be getting rally wins,” Harry said.

“I felt like I had that pressure slightly sitting on me as well, but to come out and perform the way we did is a good effort by Coral and I, and by the team at Neal Bates Motorsport for getting us here with quite limited prep.

“Last year in Canberra, we had very straightforward weather conditions, and the battle was just a battle, where we had to drive fast. But today felt like the weather threw a bit more at us and was changing all day long.

“I think the one thing that stayed pretty consistent all day was our pace, and to show the pace from the first stage to the last feels feels pretty nice.

“I think it was a tricky day, I have got some experience now in Canberra in wet conditions, which probably played in my favour, whereas I think some of the others were probably a little bit caught out by conditions.”

Another crew to enjoy a highly successful day was Molly Taylor and Andy Sarandis after they steered their Subaru WRX STI to seventh outright behind Tom Clarke and Ryan Preston, and the Mainfix ARC Production Cup victory.

In what was a dominant performance from Taylor, she ended the six-stage day with a clean sweep of stage wins, beating the Techworkz Automotive Subaru Impreza of Michael Harding and James Thornburn by more than two minutes.

Click here to watch Sunday’s full highlights on 7plus.

Harding and Thornburn didn’t leave the event empty handed though, as they finished their home rally with the ARC 4WD Classic Cup win.

In other classes, Trevor Stilling and Claire Buccini comfortably won the Trenching Systems Australia ARC Classic 2WD Cup by a minute and a half, Justin Northage and Scott Muhling won the ARC 2WD Cup, while Jaidyn and Lucy Gluskie overcame plenty of adversity to take out ARC Junior Cup honours over Mitch Garrad and Taylah Murphy.

View the full results via Subaru Results Hub.

The Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) season continues in Western Australia next month with the popular Forest Rally on 17-19 May.

Click here to watch Sunday’s full highlights on 7plus.