There’s no doubt about it, the CAMS Australian Rally Championship just gets better and better each year and 2017 was no exception. Drama, fierce competition, spectacular action and a little bit of in-car comedy.
Here’s 12 memorable moments from the 2017 CAMS Australian Rally Championship.
1. Lewis Bates’ Toyota Corolla goes up in flames at Eureka Rally, VIC
One of the most dramatic moments of the year occurred on the first day of 2017 competition. Lewis Bates, son of rally legend Neil Bates, made his ARC debut at the Eureka Rally. However, just two stages into the event, a tiny error from Bates saw him run off the road and become ‘beached’ on a gravel bank. Despite no damage to the car, Bates was unable to get back on the road and heat from the exhaust ignited the dry grass underneath. Despite the assistance of marshals and other competitors, flames took hold and destroyed the vehicle.
2. Harry Bates become youngest ARC round winner at Eureka Rally, VIC
The Bates family had reason to celebrate just one day later when young-gun Harry Bates became the youngest driver to win an ARC round. The 22-year-old won Saturday’s heat; third in Sunday’s heat, only 7.9 seconds off the pace, was enough to take out the Eureka Rally and make history.
3. Bee careful, Eureka Rally, Ballarat, VIC
Aleshia Penny, co-driver to Adam Kaplan, bravely fights off a bee invasion in the Mazda RX7.
4. ‘Tankformers’ Eli Evans hits water tank, Make Smoking History Forest Rally, WA
A dramatic moment filled with irony. Eli Evans and co-driver Glen Weston were travelling along well at WA’s Forest Rally until the third stage on day two when Evans ran a little wide on a corner. Unfortunately, a concrete water tank was in that very spot, the Peugoet 208 Maxi suffering a big impact and subsequent roll, finishing on its roof. Ironically supported by ‘Tankformers’, Evans and Weston were able to limp back to service to finish the event.
5. Molly Taylor and Harry Bates’ epic battle at Make Smoking History Forest Rally, WA
Molly Taylor and Harry Bates are great mates, having grown up together due to their parents, Coral and Neil, being long-time teammates and rally legends. But out in the forest these two are fierce competitors and the Make Smoking History Forest Rally provided the backdrop for one of their great battles to date.
With both in amazing form, the pair traded stage times on day one with the lead switching no less than five times. At the end of day one, Taylor held a slim 3.1 second lead. The battle continued on Sunday with Taylor and Bates claiming two stage wins each. Unfortunately, their duel was cut short when Bates suffered engine issues with four stages remaining; Taylor went on to take a clean sweep of both heats and win the round.
What shone through at this event was the mutual respect and great sportsmanship that Taylor and Bates display… and that is part of what makes the Australian Rally Championship great.
6. Mini Cooper AP4 debut at National Capital Rally, ACT
The long awaited debut of Eli Evans’ Mini Cooper AP4 took place at the National Capital Rally in Canberra. Admittedly, the car proved a handful for Evans and suffered some mechanical issues on day two but everyone agreed that the Mini looked and sounded awesome and would be a real contender.
7. A ‘Dad’ Moment, Andrew and Kirra Penny, National Capital Rally, ACT
Our favourite father-daughter duo Andrew and Kirra Penny provide us with some funny in-car from time to time and this is one of them. Dad enjoying himself, eye-roll from daughter…
8. ‘You aged me 20 years!’ Molly Taylor & Bill Hayes, National Capital Rally, ACT.
Even Australian Rally Champions scare themselves sometimes… this jump aged Molly Taylor and Bill Hayes by 20 years!
9. ‘The Flying Orange’, Craig Brooks, Lightforce Rally SA
No more to be said, spectacular!
10. Wet much? Sunday morning at Kennards Hire Rally Australia, NSW
As if Rally Australia’s grueling three-day event is not tough enough, the weather gods decided to throw a deluge of rain into the mix this year. Sunday morning’s stages provided some of the wettest rally action we have seen in a long time. It made for some exciting viewing.
11. Photo of the Year?
Aaron Wishart, Wishart Media, took some amazing shots at Kennards Hire Rally Australia this year but this one in particular is a cracker… Home-town hero Nathan Quinn captured in full flight in ‘Shirley’, the ageing Mistubishi Lancer Evo IX, at the spectacular Destination NSW Super Special Stage, on his way to the 2017 CAMS Australian Rally Championship, ARC round win and ninth outright against the world’s best rally drivers. Does it get any better?
12. Nathan Quinn claims 2017 Australian Rally Championship live on WRC TV
If this clip doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you’re a hard nut to crack. All the stars aligned on Sunday afternoon and with Quinn and Searcy running in the top 10 of the WRC field, Quinn’s run on the final stage of the event was televised live on WRC TV – not that Searcy had let Quinn in on that bit of information! The resulting live interview with Quinn, claiming his first Australian Rally Championship at his home event, provided an emotional and fitting finish to what was a fantastic year of competition.