Lewis Bates secures WRC2 drive

Lewis Bates will be the latest Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) star to compete in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with the 2022 ARC Champion to run in this year’s Rally de Portugal.

Backed by SafetyCulture, Bates will contest the fifth round of the 2024 WRC season in his brand new Toyota Rally2 Car and will have regular co-driver Anthony McLoughlin alongside him, while highly esteemed French team, ERace, will run the car.

The opportunity to run in Portugal comes as a result of some good timing for Bates, as his newly European-built car is due to be available shortly before the 22-stage event in May.

Straight after the WRC rally, Bates will return to Australia to compete in the Make Smoking History Forest Rally, while the car itself will touch down in Australia just before the Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland in June.

Not only will Rally de Portugal be Bates’ first time competing in his new car, it will also be his debut in the WRC2 and his first rally outside of Australia, with the 27-year-old looking forward to the opportunity.

The livery that Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin will run at this year’s Rally de Portugal.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to compete in Rally Portugal and a big thanks to SafetyCulture and my other sponsors and supporters for making it happen,” Bates said.

“There will be a lot of firsts in May. It’s definitely going to be a massive challenge, but I am looking forward to it.

“I am not putting any expectations for results, and I am under no illusion about what my pace will be compared to a lot of those fast guys.

“The focus is purely to get the best out of myself and hopefully we can have a fast clean weekend. As long as I drive like I did in Canberra, then I know we can have a good weekend.

“From all reports, it looks like a fantastic event and one that shares similar characteristics to a lot of Australian events. Out of all the European rallies, this is the closest one to what we know, so it’s my pick of the lot.”

In making his WRC2 debut, Bates joins a decorated list of current ARC drivers to have competed in the premier rally competition recently, with Peter Rullo debuting at Rally Sweden earlier this year and Bates’ brother Harry at Rally New Zealand in 2022.

Bates’ biggest supporter for the event, Luke Anear, has also enjoyed his fair share of WRC events in the past couple of years, while the ever-experienced Scott Pedder has contested the Porto-based rally itself twice.

Having an experienced support group at WRC2 level, Bates will be seeking as much advice as he can ahead of the event.

“I am very fortunate enough to have a lot of people in my corner for this event, such as Anthony, Luke, Harry and Scott – all of whom have experience in the WRC2 class,” Bates explained.

Photos: Oz Sport Photos

“Firstly, Anthony and I have been partners for many years, so I am excited that he is able to make the journey with me. He has a lot of WRC experience, which will help me a lot.”

“I’ve had a lot of discussions with Harry about his learnings from New Zealand. I think we all learned a lot there, and I am stoked to have him coming with me to Portugal to support me.

“I have also had chats with Luke and Scott about their time at that level to see if there is anything extra I can get. Basically, I am talking to anyone who has done a WRC event because it’s all helpful.

“Also having ERace with me is a big bonus. I was referred to them by a couple of different people and they have been incredibly helpful in getting things organised ahead of the event.

“All in all, there is a lot of work still to be done but I am very excited to do the rally.”

The Vodafone Rally de Portugal takes place in Matosinhos, Porto on 9-12 May.