Positive test day proves hit with crews

The Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) season has officially begun today as ARC crews from around the country got the opportunity to test and tune their cars ahead of the first round next month.

Headlining the 10-field entry list was reigning champions Harry Bates and John McCarthy, along with fellow Toyota Gazoo Racing teammates Lewis Bates and Anthony McLaughlin as well as AGI Sport’s Luke Anear in his Ford Fiesta R5.

With the test day taking place in Bagshot, Victoria, crews also got to test the new Hoosier tyres for the first time since the manufacturer became the official tyre partner earlier this year.

Despite no official times being recorded across the day, it was the first time most ARC crews were able to get in their car after the cancellation of November’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia due to bushfires.

Shamrock Motorsport’s Richie Dalton was one of those drivers to be affected by the event’s cancellation, with the 2020 pre-season test the first time he got to experiment on the car’s since undergoing a full makeover.

“It’s been really good. Obviously, I was preparing for Rally Australia but that was cancelled so this is the first time we have been in a car since work was done on it,” Dalton said.

“With Hoosier coming on board now, the car has completely transformed over the past year and it gives me confidence after coming leaps and bounds. I felt like we were keeping up with Harry now.

“There might not have been timing today, but everyone was comparing notes which is nice. I gave Justin Dowel’s G4 car a test and was interesting to see the difference. Really excited to see what we can do this year. It was an awesome day.”

While there were a few drivers like Dalton who got in the car for the first time in a while having been unable to compete in the ARC’s final round last year, Troy Dowel was just happy to use the test for key learnings.

“The day went really good. We were just taking it step by step,” Dowel said.

“I have been focused on learning the new setup and it’s going really well. I am just trying to learn the car with the new locked diff set up and I am finding the speed as I go.

“We’re finding the new tyres good so far. They’re giving me a lot of confidence to really attack the corners and carry the speed through. I think they’re fantastic.”

Business Development Manager for Hoosier Tire Australia, Mitch Dumesny, was also in attendance during the day and was thrilled with the positive feedback from some of the competitors.

“I haven’t spoken to a lot of the crews as of yet as we will have a proper a debrief after today, but chatting to both Bates boys and the Dowels, it seems they really like what we have,” Dumesny said

“It’s been a really positive day. To have something that the competitors are really happy with is a good sign. That is what Hoosier is all about. We make what we can to provide the best product for the racing competitors, so hopefully, it can help grow rally here in Australia.

Teams will now head back home after the test and prepare for March’s season opener, the Netier National Capital Rally, which takes place on 21-22 March.

What the others said

Harry Bates
Feeling good really good about today. With Rally Australia being cancelled last year we haven’t been in the car since Adelaide Hills. It’s awesome to be back in this car and ready for another season.

Jason Lennane
It was fairly grippy actually. I ran two different sets of tyres today to get a feel. Really happy with the Hoosiers. They have a bit of wear on them. But I expected it as it’s pretty warm out there.

Lewis Bates
It’s pretty exciting actually and it was great to be back behind the wheel again. The car feels good and the Hoosier Tyres are also feeling good. So I have a really good feeling going into the year.

Luke Anear
It’s good to be back in the car to do a bit of testing. The car feels great. We have the new Hoosier tyres so I’m just getting comfortable in those and seeing what they do under operating temperatures.

For me, each time I get into the R5, it gets easier. Doesn’t take as long to get up to speed and feel comfortable. It’s starting to come together and really looking forward to it.

Stephen Mee
The test was great. It’s been a long time coming. We were able to come over to do the test. It’s a shame we couldn’t get to Canberra due to the bushfires. It’s good to just get out there and have a good session.

Taylor Gill
The test went really well. We’re building the speed, building the pace as we feel comfortable and learning the tyres. It’s a completely new bit of road for me and for everyone. It’s been great.