After a seesawing battle that raged all afternoon, the winner of Heat 1 of the Eureka Rally is Toyota driver Harry Bates, by a margin of 14.8 second after 120 kilometres of competitive stages. Bates snatched the victory on the last stage from the runner-up Nathan Quinn.
When the pair left the lunch time service, Quinn was in the lead by 6.2 seconds. But as the afternoon warmed up to the predicted 30 degrees, Bates and Quinn swapped fastest stages times in the first four of the afternoon five stages with honours at two stages apiece.
The final stage for the Heat (special stage 11) was pivotal, with Quinn suffering a mechanical problem that slowed his pace, so that he only finished seventh in the stage, so that Bates escaped with the heat win.
“The win feels amazing and is the perfect start to the season. The whole team has made a huge effort over the break and this win is a reward for everyone’s hard work.” Bates said.
The tussle for the third-place points between local Aaron Windus and triple Australian champion Eli Evans was also a titanic battle that was ultimately resolved in the favour of Windus. Evans won the opening two stages after lunch but a mysterious electrical gremlin slowed the Peugeot 208 Maxi on special stage 9, allowing Windus to take a 1 minute advantage and hang on to the end, despite a last-ditch effort by Evans as he won the final special stage.
Further down the field. Australian champion Molly Taylor battled on to finish seventh outright and score valuable point towards her championship defense.
The sheet is wiped clean tonight and all the surviving competitors will start tomorrow morning with a clean sheet to see who secures the points in Heat 2 of the event.
Competition resumes at 8:20 tomorrow morning with stages to the north and south of Ballarat.