With Australia’s best rally drivers all now congregating in Canberra, the wait for one of the biggest RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) seasons in recent years is almost over.
Kicking off the year is once again the Netier National Capital Rally – an event that has cemented itself as the season opener for the fifth year running as its popularity continues to rise.
Often touted as extremely challenging, the healthy entry list of more than 52 cars, 32 of which will be running the ARC component of the rally, would suggest that rally crews thrive on a good challenge and tackling the entertaining forests of the nation’s capital.
From an entry list point of view, the star power couldn’t be more evident – reigning champions Harry Bates and John McCarthy along with Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammates Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin leading the way.
And although one might consider the Bates brothers a safe bet for a Toyota one-two, there are just so many individuals who could prevent Harry from securing an incredible fourth consecutive victory at his home event.
Former ARC champions Eli Evans (2018), Nathan Quinn (2017), Scott Pedder (2014) and the returning Brendan Reeves in his Hyundai Australia i30 N are all capable of picking up stage wins or snagging a podium place come Sunday afternoon.
After testing earlier this month, Quinn himself admitted that there was some expectation to potentially beat both Bates brothers.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that I can challenge the Bates brothers in any car but there is some expectation now that we have a G4 car, we’re expected to do more,” Quinn said.
“We’re just going to do our normal thing and as long as we’re not up until midnight and only getting a couple of hours of sleep before a rally, then we should be fine.”
It’s also a bit hard to discount a debutant with a name some motorsport fans may know – Shane van Gisbergen. Although he has very little experience, the two-time Supercars champion has shown that with the right piece of machinery, he can certainly rub shoulders with the best, having impressed during testing.
Outside of some of the big names, there are also a handful of individuals who could certainly throw a spanner in the works – some of whom have new wheels and other others who have more experience in their current cars.
From old faces with new cars in Tom Clarke (Ford Fiesta R5) and Arron Windus (Ford Fiesta G4) to those in older cars but with more seat time like Luke Anear (2019 Ford Fiesta R5) and Richie Dalton (Toyota Yaris AP4), there is plenty of storylines and individuals to look forward to.
“We’re really looking forward to it. The fact that we have spent more time in the car now relative to last year. Everything was new in 2021,” Dalton ahead of the event.
“We’re coming back to an event we have done before in the same car that we had last year so all in all everyone is looking forward to it and we can’t wait to get going.”
As for the event itself, up to 177 competitive kilometres over three heats await the registered ARC crews with the endurance event to be spread across 13 picturesque stages.
The official action gets underway on Saturday where crews will begin the first of seven stages at 7:21am local time.
After completing 109 competitive kilometres over the first three sections on the Saturday, ARC crews will have a shorter day on Sunday with 73 kilometres over six stages to take place, including the 10-kilometre EROAD Power Stage, which will wrap up the event on Sunday afternoon.
No fan will want to miss out on this highly anticipated event and there are plenty of ways fans can keep up to date with the rally across both days.
Those lucky enough to be attending the event can view the cars live via the multiple spectator points or up close for free at the ARC Service Park.
Those unable to make it can stay updated via the ARC’s social media platforms, the live blog on the championship’s website or through rallyresults.com and rallysafe, which will be displaying live timing.
As part of the ARC’s recent deal with the Seven Network, the EROAD Power Stage will be screened live on 7plus from 2pm AEST on Sunday 3 April.
Following on from the event, a bumper 60-minute event highlights show will be available free and on demand on 7plus from 12 April or on 7mate at a time and date to be confirmed.
Outside of the national championship, the Canberra-based rally will host the commencement of the 2022 season for the Motorsport Australia NSW Rally Championship, East Coast Classic Rally Series and ACT Regional Rally Series.
The 2022 Netier National Capital Rally takes place in Canberra on 2-3 April.