Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin have won their first ARC heat, the quickest of all on Sunday of the Make Smoking History Forest Rally in a thrilling day full of drama.
After an entertaining first heat that saw crews take on 120 competitive kilometres across 12 stages, there was just as much going on throughout Sunday’s five stages.
It was a similar top three to the event’s first heat, only this time Lewis and McLoughlin ended up winning the heat and beating Richie Dalton and Dale Moscatt, while Harry Bates and John McCarthy rounded out the top three.
Very little separated the top three at the end of the day, with Lewis eventually coming away with a 30-second heat win despite not winning any of the five stages.
Having finished every stage in the top three, it was a highly consistent day for the youngest of the Bates brothers.
“It was our first ever ARC heat win today so it was really exciting’” Lewis said.
“We had our challenges yesterday morning and on Friday’s Super Special Stages, but we overcame and put on some really good stages for the rest of the weekend.
“We actually thought we had a chance of winning the event outright this morning when Harry had his problems, but he did a great job in recovering and getting the victory, so it wasn’t to be just yet, but our time is coming.
“To have three Toyotas on the podium was a fantastic result and a big thanks to all the team at Neal Bates Motorsport for making it possible.”
While Lewis won Sunday, the outright weekend, one of the performances of the day belonged to the second Toyota GR Yaris of Harry and McCarthy.
The duo produced a mighty effort to climb their way up the order and finish third for the day after a number of setbacks in the morning.
The drama began before any stages were run when Saturday’s winners discovered the GR Yaris had fuel pump issues in the morning service.
Although the Neal Bates Motorsport Team worked hard to get it back in order, they were late to check in, which resulted in an 80-second penalty and a lower start order.
Their bad luck continued on the opening stage when they suffered a puncture, which saw them finish 44 seconds off stage winners Eli Evans and Adam Wright.
The current championship leaders then bounced on the next stage with a four-second win over Evans and Wright, however another curve ball was thrown for the heat when the Evans Motorsport Mini Cooper AP4 caught fire at the end of the stage and ended the duo’s day.
Harry and McCarthy would then go on to win the remaining three stages, including the EROAD Power Stage, and finished third for the Heat as a result.
The result was enough to see Bates secure the outright event victory after winning Heat One, and the 2019 Champion was thrilled to have won despite so many issues in the morning.
“Not probably our strongest result on paper but I am still really happy with how John and I performed,” Harry said.
“This weekend was another challenge for the GR Yaris and it stood up to the challenge really well. We were on a push to make up time after our penalty and the car was honestly good.
“The penalties were out of our control and all we could do was drive as hard as we could and try to overtake a few people, and we ended up getting third for the Heat.
“It’s nice to know that we have the pace when we need it and I can turn it on when I have to.
“It was a long, tough and different rally in the west but they were great roads. A massive thanks must be said to the organisers and officials who have been incredible all weekend.”
Finishing second in the EROAD Power Stage, and for the outright event was Lewis and McLoughlin, while Dalton and Moscatt’s third in the stage helped them secure a maiden ARC outright podium.
In the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup, Ronnie Bustard and Larisa Biggar took out the win, beating Caoimhin MacGhirr and Noah Humble by one minute and 45 seconds.
Rounding out the class podium was debutant Alex Rullo and Steve Glenney.
It was a thrilling battle for heat honours in the Shamrock Haulage ARC 2WD Cup with Aiden Peterson and Mitchell Newton edging out Heat One winner Garry Mills and Mitch Gray.
Only 13 seconds separated the two crews at the end of the day, after Mills had issues similar to Harry Bates in the morning and was given a penalty for missing check in.
The 2WD Cup wasn’t the only close encounter Peterson had during the day, with the Daihatsu Charade driver winning the Glendun ARC Cup Heat over Molly Spalding and Douglas Johnson by just 10 seconds.
Glenn Alcorn and Jonathan Charlesson won Heat for the ARC Classic Cup Heat.
The RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship now heads to Tasmania for Shannons Rally Launceston on 25-26 June.