Reigning champs secure Forest Rally win

Harry Bates and Coral Taylor have produced an epic comeback to win the 2024 Forest Rally and start their Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) title defence with back-to-back victories.

Having suffered mechanical dramas and time penalties on the opening stage of the event, Harry and Coral managed to work their way into fourth place in Heat 1, before winning today’s second Heat in dramatic fashion – and ultimately won the event outright.

The reigning champions ended up winning Heat 2 by 30 seconds over Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammates Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin, while Alex Rullo and Steve Glenney rounded out the day’s top three by 30 seconds over Eddie Maguire and Zak Brakey.

As a result of their fourth place on Sunday, Maguire and Brakey scored enough points to secure an overall event runner-up finish, while Rullo and Glenney finished on equal points with Scott Pedder and Glenn Macneall but claimed the final place of the event podium due to total time countback.

Photos: Dakar Press Team Australia

It was a disappointing end to the weekend for Pedder, who won his first ARC Heat in 10 years on Saturday and led the field on Sunday morning after winning the day’s opening two stages.

The event was then turned on its head on Sunday’s third stage when the Skoda Fabia R5 of Pedder and Macneall sustained a broken cylinder, causing the event leaders to limp home on the stage and lose significant time.

While the Heat 1 winners managed to finish the rally, any hope of winning the event was over as they ended the day almost five minutes off the pace and in ninth overall.

Pedder’s mechanical woes on the day’s third stage elevated Harry and Coral to the lead, as the Toyota duo won the stage and finished second in the day’s remaining two stages to seal the Heat win.

Behind them, the epic battle for Heat 2 runner-up placing went right down to the wire as just six seconds separated Lewis, Maguire and Rullo, who won the penultimate stage, heading into the day’s final stage.

With Lewis and McLoughlin winning the Galvaniize Insurance Power Stage to seal second place for the day and fifth overall, Rullo managed to hold onto third for the day to secure a second consecutive ARC podium.

However, the weekend ultimately belonged to Harry and Coral, who claimed the overall victory thanks to a remarkable comeback at the end of Heat 1 and the Heat 2 win.

“I just wanted to say a massive thank you to Neal Bates Motorsport for their efforts,” Harry said.

“They had a fair few issues thrown at them this weekend from my mistakes and they worked and worked at it to make sure we had a good car.

“It was a real team effort this weekend and I am really proud of them all.

“It’s silly the mistake I made on stage one but sometimes that’s when you can get the best out of yourself, when you have your back against the wall.

“I am pretty proud of the way we have fought this weekend.”

Harry and Coral weren’t the only ones to claim event honours after a disappointing Saturday, with Molly Taylor and Andy Sarandis winning the Mainfix ARC Production Cup after a brilliant Sunday.

Molly and Sarandis lost out on Heat 1 Production Cup honours when they received a late penalty on the final stage to fall behind Craig Rando and Scott Beckwith.

But there was no such bad luck on Sunday, with victory secured as they finished two minutes ahead of the next best Production Cup crew in Josh Wiedman and Nick Reid, while Rando and Beckwith’s troubled day saw them finish the Heat in fourth.

Other Cup results saw David and Kelly Thomas complete a clean sweep of ARC 2WD Cup stage wins on Sunday to win the round overall, while Tony Oates and Niamh Nairn were victorious in the Trenching Systems Australia 2WD Classic Cup after a Heat 1 runner-up finish and 15-second Heat 2 victory over Peter Dimmock and Paul Bennett.

View the Heat 2 results via the Subaru Results Hub.

The Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship continues next month with the Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland in Gympie on 28-30 June.