It’s no secret Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Harry Bates and John McCarthy have dominated the 2019 CAMS Australian Rally Championship with four wins from four outings.
The Toyota Yaris AP4 pilots have been near faultless throughout the year and with two rounds still to go, will be hard to beat.
The penultimate round takes place in South Australia in just over a week, with Bates and McCarthy keen to repeat their victory at the Adelaide Hills Rally last year.
Heading into last year’s corresponding round, the Toyota duo trailed Eli Evans and Ben Searcy after they had steered their Skoda Fabia R5 to three consecutive round victories in Tasmania, Western Australia and Canberra – and eventually a Championship.
Along with Steve Glenney and Andy Sarandis in the Contel Communications Subaru Impreza WRX, Bates and McCarthy were the leaders’ biggest threat going into the round and it ended up being the Toyota drivers who pushed the eventual champions.
They started the weekend superbly, winning both Super Special Stages at The Bend Motorsport Park before Evans and Searcy won Saturday’s first stage of the day.
Bates and McCarthy were unfazed by the Skoda’s four-second stage victory and the duo took back the slightest of leads after winning the next two stages.
Evans and Searcy’s day went pear-shaped in the heat’s penultimate stage, missing the stage to ultimately fall down the pecking order and effectively out of the heat and the event.
With the championship leaders done for the day, Glenney and Sarandis took their place in second, while fellow Subaru do Motorsport pilots Molly Taylor and Malcolm Read rounded out the top three.
A new day, a new lease on life for the Championship leaders as Evans and Searcy bounced back and comfortably won three of the second heat’s first four stages.
The points were shared on the fifth stage as the Toyota Yaris AP4 and the Skoda Fabia R5 drew equal, but Bates and McCarthy won three of the remaining four stages to seal the event.
With Glenney and Sarandis going down midway throughout the day, the door opened up for Taylor and Read to secure third on the day and secure outright runner-up.
Evans and Searcy managed to slide onto the podium’s final step as their second day victory earned them crucial points.
Bates and McCarthy’s victory set up a thrilling final round in Coffs Harbour with four crews in the hunt. Can another challenger emerge in 2019?
The Adelaide Hills Rally takes place in South Australia on 20-22 September.