Toyota Genuine Parts’ Harry Bates has taken the honours on day one of the CAMS Australian Rally Championship National Capital Rally in Canberra today.
Bates and co-driver John McCarthy have finished the day 16 seconds clear of their closest rivals, Coffs Coast Rally Team’s Nathan Quinn and David Calder, with Subaru do Motorsport’s Molly Taylor and Bill Hayes a further 13 seconds adrift of Quinn.
The day was not without its dramas for Bates, who suffered a broken sway bar link in the Toyota Corolla S2000 this morning.
“It was not quite a perfect day, I feel like we could be leading by a little bit more but we broke a sway bar link which made the car a little bit unpredictable on turn in and exits,” explained Bates.
“But we did the best we could with what we had and still managed to set some reasonable stage times.”
Bates was fastest on five of today’s eight stages, something he says is an achievement for him.
“This afternoon we went out and won three stages so that was something that we were really happy with. For me, I’ve won rallies but I don’t often take the most stage wins and its something I’ve been wanting to improve on so that’s great.
“I’m quite surprised to be in the position that we are in to be honest, because I knew coming into this weekend that the competition would be really strong so to be 16 seconds up, I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but, with the current competition its actually quite a decent gap.”
Quinn, who led the championship coming into round three, set out to run consistently to protect his points lead, but todays’ close competition, at times only 0.6 of a second separating the top three, got the better of him.
“I was probably driving a bit faster than I had planned today but it worked out well,” Quinn said.
“We thought for a minute there we might have had a chance of winning today so the red haze took over. But Harry drove really well this afternoon, he did some great times and to be honest he deserves to win in his home event, as will I when I do my home event!”
Quinn said he experienced some improvement in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX today, which struggled with power at the WA Forest Rally.
“We are getting close, I know we are losing a little bit out of the junctions; realistically Harry is driving so well but an Evo IX out of the junctions should be doing better than Harry’s S2000.”
Of the competition, Qunn said: “It’s a really good match up there; Molly is there and Eli was learning the car today; it’s a shame he wasn’t up the front there but he was just sitting there patiently hoping something would happen.”
Current ARC Champion Taylor had a small moment of concern on the third stage this morning, but was otherwise happy with today’s outcome.
“We had a little moment on SS3 but fortunately the rear bumper damage was purely cosmetic and the boys put the cable ties to good use in service,” said Taylor.
“Other than that it was actually a really good day, especially when you factor in Harry’s motivation in front of his home crowd, Eli showcasing his new car and Nathan defending his championship lead.”
In forth place, Tankformers’ Eli Evans and co-driver Glen Weston had their fair share of challenges during heat one as they worked through issues with the brand new Mini Cooper AP4.
“We’ve got a long list of things that we need to change but this event was always going to be about testing and improvements.
“It’s been tough today but the idea is to keep the car really neat, stay away from all the dangers and keep learning.”
Australian Truck Performance’s Tony Sullens and Kaylie Newell rounded out the top five.
The National Capital Rally continues tomorrow, this time to the west of Canberra. The action starts at 8am.