Harry Bates and Coral Taylor have produced a suite of stage wins to claim Heat 1 of the PowerPlay Adelaide Hills Rally.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia duo were in fine form during Saturday’s action, having overcome a disappointing fourth stage to win the Heat by 16 seconds over current Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) leaders Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin.
Finishing the Heat in third provisionally were Activ Rallysport’s Troy Dowel and Bernie Webb after Maguire Motorsport’s Eddie Maguire and Zak Brakey tumbled outside the top 10 due to a late penalty.
With 40 crews entered in the fifth round of the 2023 ARC season, the 25-stage rally got underway last night at Shell V-Power Motorsport Park with two special stages around the circuit’s GT circuit.
Harry and Taylor took out both stages to end Friday night’s action with a one and half second lead over their Toyota teammates in Lewis and McLoughlin, while Maguire and Brakey were just half that time behind in third.
The top three crews continued their battle on Saturday with Lewis and McLoughlin winning the day’s first two stages, which saw the reigning ARC champions move to the lead after Harry and Taylor overshot a corner and lost time.
After finishing third on SS4 behind Lewis and Maguire, Harry and Taylor kicked into a new gear from SS5 onwards, winning eight of the remaining 10 stages, including one of the Super Special Stages at The Bend on Saturday night.
“I think our little moment this morning, where we had a slight overshoot probably helped us,” Harry said.
“We were struggling to get a feeling for the brakes and there’s so many high-speed sections where you have to brake really heavily into a tight corner, so to go over the limit actually helped us find the limit and then settle into a rhythm from there.
“And we actually had a really good day, so yeah, very happy with the day.
“I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the changes in rhythm as it created an extra challenge. I think it’s difficult for a driver and co-driver to deal with, but it’s a nice challenge and it’s also something different.
“It was a challenge. But I do like the roads down here. They’re such driver roads and for the most part, it was a lot of fun.”
Behind Harry and Taylor, Lewis and Maguire had an intriguing battle throughout the heat, but Lewis’ three-stage wins helped him build a gap over Maguire before the latter received the penalty during the first pass of the Super Special Stage at The Bend for a wrong turn on the stage that saw them in the wrong lane at the end of the stage.
Maguire’s penalty on the penultimate stage provisionally elevated Dowel and Webb to third overall after they had been victorious in an entertaining three-way battle with IntelliSpatial Fleetcare Racing’s Alex Rullo and Steve Glenney and the returning Molly Taylor and Andy Sarandis.
Having had a slightly slower start to the rally that saw him fall to as low as ninth, Dowel managed to claw his way back into contention on Saturday with a solid run of six consecutive top-five finishes, surpassing both Rullo and Taylor for fourth on SS8 before building a nice buffer for the rest of the event.
In the end, Dowel and Webb finished the Heat with a six-second advantage over Rullo and Glenney, while the West Australian held off Molly and Sarandis by just seven seconds for fourth.
Although Molly missed out on fourth by a small margin, she still ended Heat 1 with victory in the White Wolf Constructions Production Cup – beating Steve Maguire and Ben Searcy by four seconds.
Splitting the two Production Cup contenders in sixth overall was Luff Motorsport’s Jamie and Bradley Luff after the duo pipped the Mitsubishi Magna of Steve Maguire during the Super Special Stages.
In eighth place were Luke Anear and Malcolm Read in the AGI Rallysport prepared Ford Fiesta Mk2 after finishing the day with a stage win, while the second IntelliSpatial Fleetcare Racing Hyundai i20 of Peter Rullo and James Marquet placed ninth.
Rounding out the top 10 after a difficult day were Daniel Gonzalez and Daymon Nicoli.
As for the remaining Cups, Tom Clarke and Ryan Preston enjoyed a solid return in their Datsun Stanza, claiming Heat honours for the ARC Classic Cup, while Mitch Mitch Garrad and Lucas Zinsstag took out the Shamrock Haulage ARC Junior Cup.
The PowerPlay Adelaide Hills Rally continues tomorrow with Heat 2, which will see crews tackle 80 competitive kilometres over 11 stages, including the EROAD Power Stage.