Harry Bates and Coral Taylor have secured their second Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) heat victory for the season, after a dominant display on day one of the Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland.
In what was a dramatic day with lots of attrition amongst the 30 ARC crews, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia pairing were highly consistent across the seven completed stages, eventually beating Tasmanians Eddie Maguire and Zak Brakey by more two minutes.
Starting off with an impressive victory on the opening stage, Bates and Taylor ended up winning five of the following six stages as fellow title contenders Lewis Bates & Anthony McLoughlin and Nathan Quinn & Ray Winwood-Smith both suffered significant mechanical problems during the opening two stages.
Following on from his Heat win, Harry was pleased to have such a clean day.
“We took a pretty consistent approach. We wanted to attack in the areas where we knew we could and where it was sort of smooth easier stages, whereas where it was rough, we had a slightly more conservative approach,” Harry said.
“I think it paid off for us this afternoon and we sort of knew where all the cautions were and we were able to go out and push on a little bit more and then just back off to the parts we knew we had to.
“All in all, it was a clean day. Tomorrow we’re expecting half and half, so we’ll just have to do our homework tonight and make sure we’re ready to tackle the conditions.”
The only crew to snatch a stage win off the eventual Heat winners were Luke Anear and Malcolm Read, after Anear guided his Ford Fiesta Rally2 to the SS2 – Widgee win over Harry by just under one second.
However, what looked to be the start of an intriguing battle between the two crews was over by the very next stage as Anear became the latest victim of the rally after a big roll midway through SS3 – Kandanga.
With Anear’s crash ultimately ending his weekend, and both Quinn and Lewis unable to fully overcome their issues throughout the day, it allowed Harry and Taylor to comfortably claim the Heat victory and score valuable points towards revitalising their championship hopes.
Behind the former ARC Champions, Maguire and Brakey enjoyed a solid start to life in their new Skoda Fabia R5 as they enjoyed their best Heat finish for the season so far and enjoying a fairly trouble-free run.
Rounding out the top three were fellow Tasmanians Bodie Reading and Mark Young, with the Subaru WRX STI crew also claiming the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup heat win in the process.
Recording top 10 stage times all day, Reading and Young capitalised on the handful of drivers ahead of them who sustained issues in addition to Quinn and Anear, with Daniel Gonzalez & Daymon Nicoli, Jamie Luff & Bradley Luff and Ryan Williams & Brad Jones all having issues in the morning.
Another major casualty of the Heat was Troy Dowel and Bernie Webb, after the duo had an off on SS5’s Brooyar West, which resulted in a small grass fire that caused the stage itself to be cancelled.
Remarkably, the high attrition rate allowed Lewis and McLoughlin to stay in the hunt, with the championship leaders finishing the day in fourth place after snatching the position from Hyundai i20 Rally2 pilots Peter Rullo and Ben Searcy on the day’s final stage.
A stable day from Glenn Brinkman and Steve Richardson saw the Queenslanders grab sixth overall, as Williams and Jones managed to recover from their morning mishap to finish seventh. Gandewa Sanders and Rhianon Gelosmino edged out Cameron Henry and Erik Johnsson by 20 seconds to finish the day in ninth, while fellow Queenslanders and ARC Junior Cup stars Josh Wiedman and Nick Reid rounded out the top 10.
It was a good day out for the young local crew, who also enjoyed victories in both the ARC 2WD Cup and the Shamrock Haulage ARC 2WD Cup, while Ian Griffin and Robert McGowan claimed the ARC Classic Cup.
Also running today was the Kickass Motorsport Australia Queensland Rally Championship, which saw Ian Menzies and Robert McGowan victorious after beating Brinkman and Richardson by almost a minute.
The Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland continues tomorrow, with the timesheets to start all over again as crews tackle six stages, including the EROAD Power Stage, for Heat 2.