Toyota Genuine Parts’ Harry Bates and John McCarthy lead The Courier Eureka Rally after completing four special stages east of Ballarat this morning.
Bates holds a 16 second lead over Contel Communications’ Steve Glenney and Michael Potter. Tankformers Eli Evans and Ben Searcy hold down third place, 29 seconds behind Bates.
Bates and Evans shared the stage wins this morning, Bates posting the fastest time on the first two stages in the Toyota Yaris AP4 before Evans found his groove in the Mini Cooper AP4, claiming special stage three and four.
“We had a good morning. Everything in the car was feeling really good and our times weren’t exactly where I wanted them to be so that was impressive by the other competitors, they’re really pushing hard,” Evans said.
“Now I know where the standard needs to be we’ll try and match it and make some time up this afternoon.”
Glenney, who made a late switch from co-driver to driver this week, wasted no time settling in, posting consistently fast times in the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti, never lower than third fastest on this mornings stages.
Glen Raymond’s first outing in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX started well, the Victorian third fastest on special stage one, but two flat tyres on the second stage put a dampener on things, forcing Raymond back to the service park to resolve an issue with the brake system causing the puncture.
“Just a couple of brake dramas actually. It looks like there are some rocks that have actually jammed into the rear wheel and causing dramas and it has actually split two rims,” Raymond said.
“There is actually a brake scraper that avoids this specific problem and it’s actually doing the opposite.
“It’s frustrating as we were in the top three in the first stage and that was the first time we have driven the car competitively and minimal testing so it’s a bit of a shame but that’s motor sport.”
Subaru do Motorsport’s Molly Taylor and Malcolm Read made a solid start, the pair sitting in third after the first two stages. However, a flat tyre saw them lose over three minutes on special stage four, dropping them to eleventh.
Solid starts also for Lewis Bates and Dale Moscatt, currently fourth, Brad Markovic and Toni Feaver, currently fifth and Wayne Morton and Kirra Penny, currently sixth.
“Obviously not being in the seat for seven months is always a huge ask to get back out there and dust off the cobwebs,” Markovic said.
“Pretty happy with how the first few stages went. We just wanted to get through those unscathed, get some miles underneath it.”
Special stage three was stopped for safety reasons this morning with reports of a public vehicle in the vicinity. Competitors that were yet to complete the stage ran through the stage as a slow speed transport and will receive a time for the stage, calculated using a formula and based on their times from other stages during heat one.
This morning’s four stages will be repeated after crews complete their lunchtime service. See The Courier Eureka Rally Hub to see how you can follow the event this weekend.