The second round of the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) is just around the corner and the best rally crews in Australia are buzzing.
For the first time since 2016, the ARC hits Queensland and it’s the southeastern town of Gympie who has the honour of hosting this highly anticipated event.
Not only is there excitement in the air because of Queensland’s grand return, but with Elysian Energy signing up as the Power Stage partner and Repco Supercars Championship leader Shane van Gisbergen also expressing his desire to compete in the ARC this year, the championship is looking in fine shape.
A huge field of 78 crews will contest the 2021 Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland – 29 of which make up the highly talented ARC entry list.
Headlining the field are current ARC leaders and reigning champions Harry Bates and John McCarthy – the duo producing a commanding performance in last month’s Netier National Capital Rally, winning all but three of the event’s stages.
Those other three stages were won by Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammates Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin, who comfortably secured second place over 2017 ARC champion and current White Wolf Construction Production Cup leader, Midstate Freight’s Nathan Quinn and co-driver Ray Winwood-Smith.
Upstaging the Bates brother on home soil in Canberra was always a tall order for other crews, however with Gympie being a new event on the ARC calendar, there’s every chance a driver other than Harry Bates could be standing on the top step of the podium for the first time since 2018 Rally Australia.
Other notable drivers looking to improve their efforts from Canberra include Western Victorian Crane Trucks’ Arron Windus, Shamrock Motorsport’s Richie Dalton and AGI Roll Cages’ Luke Anear.
A couple of new faces will be making their first appearances for the 2021 season this weekend including Hyundai Dealer Team’s Marcus Walkem, Local Legends’ Tony Quinn, Accent Benchtops’ Glenn Brinkman and Molly Taylor, who will be teaming up with old co-driver Malcolm Read in the Orange Motorsport Engineering Subaru WRX Sti.
It may have been a while since Taylor was in a rally car, with the 2016 champion busy winning the inaugural Extreme E series round last month. After completing testing on Thursday, the 2016 champion was excited for her return.
“It so good to be back in the rally car. It’s been so long since I was last rallying, so it feels a bit bizarre to be back but it’s all starting to come back now,” Taylor said.
“(Thursday’s testing) was all about getting off the rust and the car is feeling good. To come back and get the feeling on the road like that is great.
“They are really tricky and technical roads. The first couple of runs are a bit full on but it’s good to have the opportunity to get back onto a proper rally road.
“I have always loved Rally Queensland. My first ARC round was in Queensland, so it’s always been one of my favourite rallies. It’s great to be back.
“They are completely new roads, but the area is amazing. There are some fast and technical roads. I think it will be a lot of fun.”
Another interesting entry is a teenager who will make his first ARC appearance ever this weekend.
Nephew to the great Colin McRae, Max McRae will finally get the chance to compete at a national level, entering in both the Shamrock Haulage ARC 2WD Cup and the ARC Junior Cup against a host of other talented youngsters.
The ARC crews will complete around 160 competitive kilometres across 12 of the challenging stages, while the 49 remaining crews are contesting the second round of the Motorsport Australia Queensland Rally Championship and Clubman series, running on just Saturday’s six stages.
The rally gets underway on Saturday morning from 9am AEST with crews to tackle six stages, before a much-needed rest sets up the remaining six stages on Sunday, which begins with SS7 at 8:23am AEST and wraps up with the Golden Hills Power Stage in the afternoon.
Spectators can attend the event for free at four stages with Saturday’s Brooyar West (SS1 and SS4) and Sunday’s Brooyar East (SS7 and SS9) offering different vantage points.
Rally fans can keep up to date with live results via the ARC’s live blog and social media channels, as well as watching the Elysian Energy Power Stage on Sunday afternoon, live via 7plus.