After a gruelling season, the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) finale has arrived with the grand return of the Supercheap Auto Coffs Coast Rally.
A bumper field is entered in the final round of the 2022 season, with the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, Motorsport Australia NSW Rally Championship and NSW Clubman Rally Series also on show during the event.
A total of 14 stages await the 28-entered ARC crews with 198 competitive kilometres making up a schedule that ends with the EROAD Power Stage on Sunday afternoon.
Without a doubt, the most notable narrative for the event is the championship battle between three crews – current leaders Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin, reigning champions Harry Bates and John McCarthy and multiple-time podium getters, Richie Dalton and Dale Moscatt.
Although McCarthy is not in contention for the co-driver’s championship having missed the Shannons Rally Launceston due to COVID-19, the Queenslander will be keen to help Harry secure a second championship.
There are plenty of different scenarios to take place to determine the champion of 2022, however it’s Lewis who enters in the box seat having claimed the lead after a dramatic Adelaide Hills Rally.
For Coffs Coast though, there is no telling who could win as all three title contenders are part of the star-studded field who are entered in the finale.
One of the drivers who may have a say in who wins the title will be Nathan Quinn and co-driver Ray Winwood-Smith in the Hyundai Midstate Freight Hyundai i20 G4.
Coffs is Quinn’s home event and where he was crowned champion in 2017, however the New South Welshman can have a say in who wins the title, should he be within the top three by the end of the event.
Outside of the top contenders, there are many notable entries including the returning Luke Anear, who will contest his first ARC round since Canberra having toured Europe this year, Alex Rullo and Steve Glenney who make their first appearance since the Make Smoking History Forest Rally and the rookie Queensland brigade featuring the likes of Cahal Carey, Ronald Bustard, Cameron Henry and Josh Wiedman.
Of course, there are the otherARC regulars who will fancy themselves for a top 10 finish in what has been a topsy-turvy season, such as Daniel Gonzalez and Troy Dowel, both of whom are enjoying breakout seasons – especially the latter who is looking to continue the momentum of a strong second half of the year.
“I am keen to start the round,” Dowel said.
“Coffs was my first rally five years ago, so it’s good to be back and I know how good the roads are here. There is a lot of tough competition this weekend and I am definitely keen to get into that and see what we can do.
“The goal will be to finish on a high and keep the ball rolling from the last two rounds where I managed to get on the podium twice, so I want to keep the flow going for next season.
“Tasmania is the first round next year, so a good result from Coffs will do a lot of wonders for the confidence of our season next year.”
Dowel isn’t the only youngster to have impressed in 2022, with Taylor Gill, Max McRae and Jamie Luff having showing good signs throughout the year.
The trio, along with Bustard and Carey, also find themselves in an entertaining battle for top honours in the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup.
Throw in the likes of South Australians Guy Tyler and Molly Spalding, who are also enjoying a solid run in their other respective ARC Cup campaigns, and there is quite a showdown expected.
Tyler, who has Zayne Admiraal alongside him, currently trails both James Dimmock and Dean Ridge in the Shamrock Haulage ARC 2WD Cup but sits in a good position ahead of the final round considering the drop round.
As for Spalding, she is part of an exciting three-way battle for the Glendun ARC Junior Cup that also includes Dimmock, as well as regular ARC competitor Aidan Peterson.
The event kicks off with the Rally Show on Friday night from 5:30pm at C.ex Coffs International Stadium where the opening ceremony will be held, as well as Rally Central all weekend.
The action will then get underway on Saturday where crews will tackle 109 kilometres over eight stages, including both Super Special Stages at Raleigh Raceway, which will also be broadcast live and free via 7plus.
On Sunday, the action resumes with the remaining 88.88 kilometres to be run across six stages – the final of which will be the EROAD Power Stage, where the champions will likely be decided.
Just like Saturday’s Super Special Stage, the EROAD Power Stage will be live streamed on 7plus.
For fans who make it to the event, there will be multiple spectator points to see the cars in action, including at Raleigh Raceway, as well as a handful of opportunities at Rally Central during Service Breaks.
To download a spectator guide or to register for free tickets, head to www.rally.com.au/coffscoast
The Supercheap Auto Coffs Coast Rally takes place in and around the Coffs Coast on 25-27 November.
Feature Photo: Daniel Kalisz