Harry Bates has broken his Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship victory drought having claimed Heat 1 of the Make Smoking History Forest Rally.
It’s been almost one year since Bates last won a heat, with the win coming in June last year as part of the Buckby ŠKODA Rally Launceston when his current co-driver in Coral Taylor was filling in for John McCarthy.
The first heat of the West Australian rally took place over the course of two days with Friday night’s Super Special Stages at Bunbury Speedway combining with today’s seven stages in the forests, as Bates and Taylor came away with a healthy 43 second win.
It was a highly consistent performance from the duo as they steered their Toyota GR Yaris AP4 to six stage wins, including an impressive 12 second victory on SS6, and finished no lower than second in the other four stages.
It was a day that left Bates highly relieved to finally win a Heat after so long.
“It’s been a long time between drinks and probably longer than I would have imagined, but it was the perfect day,” Bates said.
“We really just focused on getting our rhythm and enjoying ourselves and Coral and I’ve had the perfect day. The car has been amazing and we really just felt at one with it all day.
“I think over the last 11 months, since my last heat win, we’ve had speed, but there’s been certain things that haven’t gone our way. So it was always there. It just required myself in the car to have a clean run and put it all together.
“Today was just one of those days where everything went right and it felt amazing in the car.
“Traditionally WA has been a strong event for me. I had my first ever heat win of the ARC back here in 2016. So, it’s just been it’s just been one of those days where everything clicked.
“And when it’s like that in the car, it’s a pretty special feeling, I must say.”
Taking out second place for the heat was the second Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia crew in Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin, while Nathan Quinn and Ray-Winwood Smith made up the Heat’s top three.
Both Lewis and Quinn ended the heat with stage wins of their own, Lewis getting his first on Saturday morning and Quinn victorious in two out of the last three stages – the New South Welshman claiming the day’s final stage by just one tenth of a second over Harry.
Very little separated Lewis and Quinn at the end of the Heat, with just eight seconds the gap at the conclusion of SS12 – however it wasn’t that close all day with the margin between the two having been out to 24 seconds midway through the Heat before Quinn clawed his way back.
Ending the day in fourth place a further 20 seconds off Quinn were Tasmanians Eddie Maguire and Zak Brakey – the Subaru WRX Sti pilot also coming away with the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup win in the process.
It was a solid shift from the Tasmanians who edged out Troy Dowel and Bernie Webb for P4 – a 23-second difference between the two crews at the end of the day.
In sixth overall was fellow Tasmanian Steve Maguire and co-driver Dale Moscatt, the Mitsubishi Evo IX duo holding off the highest-placed WA local Daniel Gonzalez by six seconds.
Although just missing out on sixth, it was still a good effort from Gonzalez and co-driver Daymon Nicoli, as the Skoda Fabia R5 duo only lost the battle to Maguire and Moscatt due to two challenging stages.
They didn’t leave empty-handed though as they came away with the Dunlop Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship Heat win – leading a pair of fellow state drivers in the outright top 10.
Finishing eighth and ninth respectively were Peter Rullo and James Marquet in the Hyundai i20 Rally 2 and Craig Rando and Scott Beckwith – the latter enjoying his official ARC debut in style.
Rounding out the top 10 for the Heat was Luke Anear and Malcolm Read – the duo having been impressive for most of the day until a tough final stage saw them drop six places.
While it was the interstate crews who made up most of the outright top 10 and White Wolf Constructions ARC Production cup, it was the locals who were dominant in the other Cups.
Finishing the day with the ARC 2WD Cup victory was Todd Payne and Jeremy Edwards in the Nissan Silvia S15, while David Thomas and Amanda Lister took out the ARC Classic Cup.
The Make Smoking History Forest Rally resumes tomorrow with five stages to run in Heat 2 – the first of which begins at 9:11 AWST.