A big field has been confirmed for the Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) season opener with 31 entries to contest this month’s Buckby ŠKODA Rally Launceston.
In what will be the biggest national field to make the journey to Tasmania in recent times, 25 ARC crews will compete in the event to get the 2023 season started on a high.
Adding to the quantity of the entry list is the quality of cars featuring in the event as every new generation rally car in the country that is ready to run, with the exception of Richie Dalton’s Toyota Yaris AP4, will be battling it out in the forests of Launceston.
Adding to the spectacle is the variety of manufacturers represented in 2023, with 10 different brands entered in the first round of the year.
Headlining the star-studded entry list are reigning champions Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin alongside teammates Harry Bates and multiple ARC champion co-driver Coral Taylor.
The two Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia cars won’t be the only Yaris entries in action during the season opener, with Luff Motorsport’s Jamie and Bradley Luff and Trailer Camper Australia’s James Dimmock and Larisa Biggar to both debut their new Toyota at the event.
Luff and Dimmock are two of a number of drivers running new cars in 2023, with Activ Rallysport’s Troy Dowell and Bernie Webb upgrading to a Skoda Fabia R5 Evo.
White Wolf Racing’s Tom Clarke and Ryan Preston return the Tasmania after a big crash there in 2022.
Realty Lane’s Daniel Gonzalez and Daymon Nicoli will once again be in their Skoda Fabia R5, looking to build on a solid rookie year, while AGI Rallysport’s Luke Anear makes a one-off change to a Skoda Fabia R5 alongside new co-driver Malcolm Read, with Anear’s Ford Fiesta still being repaired following its crash in Coffs Harbour last year.
Despite Anear no longer in his Fiesta R5, Ford will still have a solid representation in Tasmania, with White Wolf Racing’s Tom Clarke and Ryan Preston to return in their Fiesta R5 after a big crash in Tasmania last year.
Joining the duo in donning the famous Ford badge will be Indonesian Gandewa Sanders in a M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta Rally 3, with famous international co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino to call his notes.
Leading the Hyundai charge is 2017 ARC champion Nathan Quinn and Ray Winwood-Smith in the Winpart Group Hyundai i20 G4, while IntelliSpatial Fleetcare Racing will have two Hyundai I20 Rally 2 cars competing with Alex and Peter Rullo to pilot one each alongside experienced co-drivers Steve Glenney and James Marquet.
Three cars will be entered in the ARC 2WD Cup, with 2014 ARC champion Scott Pedder and Chris Randell to pilot the Pedders Suspension Renault Clio R3, Hayes Tractor Imports’ Ben and Catherine Hayes and ARC regular Aidan Peterson and Mitchell Newton in the Daihatsu Charade.
Peterson is one of many Tasmanians drivers entered, with plenty of the locals ready to take on the national cohort.
Leading the strong hometown talent pool will be Carver Mechanical’s Bodie Reading and Mark Young in a Subaru WRX STi, Stephen Maguire and Stuart Benson in a Mitsubishi Evo IX and Timothy Auty in his Mazda TRC Familia GTR alongside Callan Randall.
Event name partner Buckby Motorsport will field two cars in its home rally, with Ben Newman and Adam Kudra to be behind the wheel of Subaru WRX STi, as will Crichton Lewis with co-driver Anthony Carr.
All five Tasmanian crews are cross entered in the eight-car White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup battle royale – which will certainly be one to watch throughout the weekend.
Other cars in the class include Ravage Raceworks’ Dean Lillee and Christopher Exner and Nathan Stokes and Ian Wheeler with both crews to run Subarus.
The Buckby Motorsport entry of Ben Newman and Adam Kudra will be one of many Tasmanian crews competing in their home event.
Rounding out the ARC entry list are Classic Cup stalwarts Trevor Stilling and Jon Thompson in the High Country Motors’ Datsun Stanza and privateer entry David Thompson and Matthew Sanders in their Mazda RX7.
Director of Motorsport & Commercial Operations Michael Smith was thrilled with the field confirmed to compete in the season opener.
“To have 25 cars registered for the ARC in the season opener, 18 of which will be making the journey from the mainland, is a terrific outcome for the sport,” Smith said.
“Not only is the number of entrants highly impressive, but the quality of the field is one of the strongest it has been in a long time, which will certainly add to the spectacle.
“The fact that so many crews are willing to make the journey to Tasmania continues to highlight the Australian rally community’s confidence in the championship and that it’s heading in the right direction.”
The rally will have an almost identical schedule to the 2022 edition; with Australia’s best crews to tackle 207 competitive kilometres across 12 stages spread over two heats.
Fans planning to attend the event can register for Spectator Stage tickets here or see the cars up close during the Rally Show at The Avenues on Brisbane Street in Launceston.
Those unable to make it will be able to stay up to date via live results on rally.com.au, as well as tune into 7plus for the live broadcast of the EROAD Power Stage, while the post-event highlights show will be screened on 7mate and 7plus in the weeks after.
The Buckby ŠKODA Rally Launceston takes place in the forests of Launceston on 24-26 March.