After more than a year, Harry Bates has finally claimed an outright Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) round victory after taking out the Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland.
With Coral Taylor calling the notes, the duo charged to a thrilling 16 second victory over Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammates Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin in Heat 2 to confirm their first outright ARC win in a long time.
Meanwhile, Lewis and McLoughlin were highly deserving of their Heat 2 second place, having finished in the top two in every one of the day’s six stages, adding to a solid fourth place yesterday.
However, it wasn’t enough to earn a second place for the round overall, as Eddie Maguire and Zak Brakey split the two Toyota Yaris GR AP4s after the Tasmanians backed up their runner-up finish in yesterday’s Heat with another consistent performance in Heat 2 to finish third.
It was a highly successful debut in their new Skoda Fabia R5, finishing every one of Sunday’s stages in third place, which ultimately locked up the outright second place.
However, while the Tasmanian crew enjoyed career-best outright second place, Sunday’s Heat was all about the Toyota cars ahead of them.
Following an almost perfect return of results in Saturday’s action, Harry and Taylor were once again brilliant behind the wheel, winning four of the six stages on Sunday, including the EROAD Power Stage.
While Lewis and McLoughlin showed fight during the first half of the day with two stage wins to Harry’s one, the eventual round winner powered through the second half of the day to win all three stages.
It was an emphatic display from Harry and Taylor, who stood on the top step of an ARC podium for the first time since their win at last year’s the Buckby ŠKODA Rally Launceston in June.
“It’s been a long time, it’s been a tough year without a win, 13 months since Coral and I last won,” Harry said post-EROAD Power Stage.
“Right now, it’s mixed feelings of relief and total gratitude for our team and everyone who has helped us get back to the top step.
“It actually took a smart strategy from the start. It’s a tough rally, a real war of attrition out there and we saw so many people with issues, yesterday in particular.
“I think our strategy of taking it easy paid off. It was a total sprint between Lewis and I for the Heat win for much of the today, so to have both heat wins and my first Power Stage win in a while is cool.
“It’s been a great weekend for Coral and I. Coral has done a great job on some really tough roads – the notes are very busy here.”
In fourth place after a strong weekend was another Tasmanian duo in Bodie Reading and Mark Young after the pair finished third in Heat 1 and seventh in Heat 2.
It was a wonderful weekend from the one of the rising stars of the ARC, who bounced back after a difficult outing in May’s Make Smoking History Forest Rally to head up to Gympie for the first time and not only finish inside the top five, but to also win the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup overall.
Rounding out the top five behind Reading and Young were Peter Rullo and Ben Searcy after the duo finished both Heats inside the top 10 – the West Australians guiding their Hyundai i20 N Rally2 Car to fifth on Saturday and ninth on Sunday.
Rullo ended up edging out a pair of Queensland crews for his first outright top five, with Ryan Williams and Brad Jones beating Glenn Brinkman and Steve Richardson on the outright standings – both crews making up the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup podium behind Reading and Young.
Victorians Ben Hayes and Cathy Hayes made it three wins from three rounds claiming another impressive victory in the ARC 2WD Cup.
Other notable class winners for the day included Josh Wiedman and Nick Reid, who took out top honours in the Shamrock Haulage ARC Junior Cup.
Winning Heat 2 of the ARC Classic Cup was Ian Griffin and Liam Bainton, with the Toyota Celica drivers also victorious in the outright class battle.
Although there was less chaos than Heat 1, today’s also saw its fair share of attrition over the course of the day – most notably Nathan Quinn and Ray Winwood-Smith who withdrew before Sunday’s first stage even began.
Troy Dowel and Bernie Webb were the other major casualties for the day, with the youngster suffering a broken steering rack on his new Mitsubishi Mirage G4.
Unfortunately for Quinn, he is likely to drop below Harry Bates on the Championship standings after failing to start today and a tough day out yesterday, while Lewis’ outright podium sees him retain the championship lead at the midway point of the season.
The Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship continues next month with The Middle of Everywhere Gippsland Rally in Victoria on 25-27 August.