Harry Bates will use his Heat 1 win from the Make Smoking History Forest Rally as the main motivator for the rest of the 2023 Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) campaign.
Bates enjoyed a trouble-free run in during the first half of the ARC’s second round, comfortably winning the first heat over Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammates Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin.
Showing plenty of pace alongside new regular co-driver Coral Taylor, the 2019 ARC champion was back to his best in WA, replicating the same form that saw him win 10 consecutive events between 2019 and 2022.
However, following his last win at last year’s Buckby ŠKODA Rally Launceston, Bates failed to register a Heat win or overall win as a result of mechanical failures and crashes prior to this year’s WA round.
And although it came down to a time penalty that cost him the Make Smoking History Forest Rally win, Bates was relieved to have finally won a heat.
“The heat win felt good because it had been a long time, but it didn’t really sink in to be honest,” Bates revealed.
“I was too focused on the Sunday and keeping up the rhythm that we developed in those first heat stages. We had made sure that we put ourselves in a good position to drive fast and win stages and the plan sort of worked, so it was nice to finally get one.
“It has been a very frustrating 12 months for us where we have dealt with one thing after another. I feel we have faced every issue possible like reliability, me making mistakes and penalties.
“So, for us in WA, the big thing was getting good stage times, as well as developing a simple process where it was one corner at a time.
“That strategy paid dividends even though the overall outcome was not there. It was pretty much a perfect event from Coral and I in how we attacked the stages and our pace.
“Yes the penalty and the end result were disappointing, but there were plenty of positives to take away from it – one being that if it was an endurance event (instead of a sprint event), we would have won based on overall time.”
Bates was hoping to continue that momentum from WA having adopted a newfound attitude, despite Queensland in 2021 essentially being the start of a tough run of events.
“If you look at last year before Rally Queensland, you would have thought that John (McCarthy) and I were a sure thing for the championship, but things did go off the rail for us,” Bates explained
“We had a commanding lead halfway through the season, yet still managed to lose the title as we experienced a whole lot of issues and I think part of that was that was because I was fixated on the rallies ahead and not that one I was competing in at the time.
“I have now had a change in outlook, which is to not look at the bigger picture and to focus purely on one round at a time and what’s in my control. It’s a bit of a change in strategy but I think it’s important.
“We clearly had pace in WA and I think if I get back to basics and just enjoy the driving and the process, the stage wins will follow.
“We haven’t had the best start, but to fix that we need to get good results. A lot of those factors are out of my control, which is fine.
“If you look at the standings, it’s certainly far from over. I am not stressed about the championship at this point – the focus now is just on going to Queensland and getting a good result.”
The ARC continues next month with the Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland to take place in Gympie on 21-23 July.