Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia’s Harry Bates and John McCarthy have started their RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) title defence in style – ending day one of the Netier National Capital Rally on top.
With more than 30 crews entered in the 2021 season opener in Canberra, the first day of the event saw the reigning champions claim six of the day’s eight stages.
It was a dominant display from Bates and McCarthy who picked up where they left off from 2019, albeit in the brand new Toyota GR Yaris AP4 and once again cemented themselves as the benchmark for the championship.
Despite facing issues with the turbo booster midway through the day, Bates was thrilled with how the event panned out having finished ended the eight stages with a one-minute lead.
“We’re completely stoked with the day. We didn’t come here expecting to have such a flawless day like we have so we stoked with not only our times but with the progression we made throughout the day,” Bates said.
“We had little niggles and dramas that we were always going to have with a new car, especially since we hadn’t done the testing we would have liked before this weekend, but I am so happy with the work the team have put in the car.
“We built up a good lead today, which is what we wanted to do and now we have to make sure we continue this rhythm and get through tomorrow morning without drama. And then it all becomes about the power stage if the afternoon.”
Finishing the day with two stage wins of their own in second place and the leaders’ biggest challengers for tomorrow was the second Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia GR Yaris AP4 in Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin.
Having had difficult outings in Canberra in previous years, it was a solid effort behind the wheel of the younger Bates, who showed plenty of pace in the new set of wheels throughout the eight stages.
“It’s been amazing. Credit to the team and at Neal Bates Motorsport. WE have debuted two new cars this weekend and they have been faultless and a joy to drive to driver.
“I think it’s a confidence-inspiring car, which is always nice for a driver. Wants to make you attack even more.
“The stages are very difficult. The afternoon loops were rough and bull dusty, so it was really challenging and pretty hard on the cars.”
Just behind the two Bates brothers is 2017 ARC champion Nathan Quinn and co-driver Ray Winwood-Smith in the Midstate Freight Mitsubishi-Evo 10, while in fourth place is another challenger for that final podium position in Shamrock Haulage’s Richie Dalton and Dale Moscatt.
With only 10 seconds separating both crews at the end of the day, it was Quinn who had been the more consistent, however following a difficult two opening stages, Dalton found his rhythm after the first service break and posted multiple top-three times – his best showing coming on stage six where he placed second behind Lewis.
Quinn won’t have eyes just on a podium finish tomorrow with the New South Welshman also leading the way in the White Wolf Constructions Production ARC Cup, with the fifth placed Darren Windus and Joe Brkic in the Western Victorian Crane Trucks Subaru WRX Sti just over a minute behind.
A number of other White Wolf Constructions Production ARC Cup crews make up the remaining top 10 positions including Chris Higgs, Tom Clarke, Arron Windus and Taylor Gill, while Troy Dowell sits in 10th.
Only eight seconds behind Dowell and leading both the Shamrock Haulage ARC 2WD Cup and ARC Junior Cup is Adrian Stratford and Kain Manning in the Ford Fiesta G2.
It was a difficult opening day with a number of crews falling victim to the challenging conditions of the stages, the highest profile being AGI Rallysport’s Luke Anear and Andy Sarandis and talented youngsters Ryan Willaims and Brad Jones, as well as Clayton Hoy and Erin Kelly who suffered power steering issues having starred in the day’s morning stages.
The action continues tomorrow morning at 9:25am local time with 61 competitive kilometres over six stages, including the Hyles Short Power Stage at 2:05pm, which will be broadcast live on 7plus.
Photos: Epic Sports Photography