The RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) resumes this weekend with the highly anticipated Adelaide Hills Rally.
A jam-packed schedule is on the cards for the 28-stage event, which acts as both Australia’s official FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship qualifier and the penultimate round of the 2022 ARC season.
Also serving as the final round of the 2022 Motorsport Australia SA Rally Championship season, there will be plenty going on throughout the rally, most of which will be held at The Bend Motorsport Park as part of The Bend AutoFest.
Starting with testing on Thursday and the ceremonial start at the East Terrace in Murray Bridge on Thursday night, the rally officially kicks off with four stages around The Bend’s GT circuit – a run which directly follows the opening day of the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships.
A mixture of 13 stages await the 50 entered crews on Saturday with a further 96 competitive kilometres spread across the Adelaide Hills and The Bend Motorsport Park.
Sunday’s competition will see the remaining 11 stages held at The Bend with the EROAD Power Stage to wrap things up at about 3:45pm ACDT.
With the podium to run at 5:30pm local time, championship leaders Harry Bates and John McCarthy could be crowned ARC champions for the second time with the duo having a mathematical chance to claim the title this weekend.
However for them to do so, there are a few things that need to go their way with plenty of crews in the running for an outright victory – especially after what was a dramatic edition of The Middle of Everywhere Gippsland Rally in August.
Headlining the field of challengers are the leaders’ Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammates Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin, who are fresh from their maiden ARC victory in Gippsland.
Both Bates brothers are cross entered in the APRC and will be looking to qualify for November’s finale, with Shamrock Motorsport’s Richie Dalton and Dale Moscatt, Realty Lane’s Daniel Gonzalez and Larissa Biggar and Ikon Sign’s Dean Ridge and Phillip Bonser also registered to enter.
Nathan Quinn and Ray Winwood Smith’s late inclusion and the return of Arron Windus are both big additions to an event where anything is possible.
Despite not having competed since the Make Smoking History Forest Rally in April, Windus felt optimistic of a decent result, with his Activ Rallysport Ford Fiesta G4 in good shape ahead of his return.
“We’re really excited to be back and although it’s been a long time, I have been at every event keeping an eye on things and I am exactly where I want to be for the challenge,” Windus said.
“With that said, there is a bit of questioning as to whether I still have it or whether I am bit rusty, but I think once we get five minutes into testing on Thursday, I should regain the confidence because I know the car is fast – even if there is still a little more work to do.
“We had intended to come back for an event towards the end of the year, but we felt that SA made more sense compared to Coffs because it suits the car more and I think the Fiesta will shine on the stages.
“I did this event in 2016 on the old course and that was exciting so I have no doubt that the speed of these roads will be similar – this weekend will be a blast and a dream in this car.
“It’s a bit of a unique event with a mix of tarmac and gravel, so it should be very exciting not only for us, but for the overall championship and the spectators too – it’s the perfect opportunity for a different style of driving that I think will open up for closer competition with some curveballs.”
While the Victorian’s car should be on song this weekend, he will be without his usual co-driver in Daniel Bkric, and will instead have Tracey Dewhurst calling his notes with Bkric now partnered up with New South Welshman Taylor Gill.
The Adelaide Hills Rally will be Gill’s first rally since winning the FIA Rally Star Asia-Pacific Final in India earlier this month, meaning the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup contender will be full of confidence for the round.
Gill will have his own challenges in the Production Cup though, with a number of talented drivers to contend for top honours – a couple of which are South Australian locals Zayne Admiraal and Guy Tyler.
Admiraal, who will be in the SC Racing Subaru WRX alongside Matthew Heywood and Guy Tyler who will be in his popular Independent Air Solutions Mitsubishi Magna with Steven Fisher are two highly skilled drivers on their local roads and will no doubt be towards the top of class.
Tyler himself will have a busy weekend, with the South Australian also entered in Shamrock Haulage ARC 2WD Cup and SARC.
There are a fair share of young guns also entered in the Glendun ARC Junior Cup, with another South Australian in Molly Spalding and her co-driver Douglas Johnson leading the line.
With the rally forming part of The Bend AutoFest, motorsport fans are the biggest winners of all with a large amount of stages available for spectating.
In addition to The Bend’s stages and the Service Park at the circuit, there will also be some opportunities for fans to see the cars during the stages in the forests.
Fans who can’t make it will be able to tune into the EROAD Power Stage on Sunday afternoon via the live steam on 7plus, while an extended highlights show will air on 7mate shortly after.
The 2022 Adelaide Hills Rally takes place in and around the forests of Adelaide and The Bend Motorsport Park on 21-23 October.