Going down to Coffs: The title fight

There is nothing bigger for a family bond than a good old-fashioned sibling rivalry.

For the test of time, siblings have often been competitive with one another in all manners of life – especially when the stakes are high.

This weekend the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) title fight will see the sibling rivalry between the Bates brothers will reach a new level.

Just 31 points separates current leader Lewis Bates and reigning champion Harry Bates after what has been a season of two halves.

In the first half of the year, Harry picked up where he left off in 2021 and 2019 with three consecutive wins to charge out to a commanding lead.

However mechanical woes in Victoria and South Australia saw Lewis claim career first and second ARC round wins – which ultimately led to the showdown this weekend at Coffs.

While on paper, 27 points separate the two brothers, the ARC drop round regulation will see the gap extended to 31 points should both drivers finish strong this weekend.

Of course, the duo aren’t the only ones with a shot of the title, with Richie Dalton and Troy Dowel both having a mathematical chance to win coveted Possum Bourne Memorial Trophy, however they will need a lot of luck to fall their way, and will require them to win their first ever round of the ARC.

Ahead of the last outing for the 2022 ARC season, the Supercheap Auto Coffs Coast Rally, rally.com.au had a brief look at each title contender and their chances.

Lewis Bates
Current points: 398
Points post-drop round*: 384
Maximum points: 494

If Lewis and co-driver Anthony McLoughlin win the event, then there is no denying them the title no matter where Harry finishes.

If Lewis finishes second, then he will still be crowned champion even if Harry wins and gets maximum points in the EROAD Power stage.

If Lewis finishes third and Harry wins the event, then Lewis will need to score more points than Harry on the EROAD Power Stage in order to claim the title.

If Lewis finishes fourth and Harry wins the event, then Lewis will need to win the EROAD Power Stage and for Harry to place third or lower.

If Lewis finishes third or fourth and Harry places second, then Lewis will be crowned champion no matter what.

“Everyone has done the maths. Anthony and I have a job to do and we have worked out what we need to do.

“Basically we are trying not to think about the Championship and prepare for this rally like any other, which is just to get out and attack on Saturday morning. That is our only option and we will see where we end up.

“Coffs Harbour has amazing roads but is known for attrition. It’s going to be a difficult warm weekend, can expect many challenges along the way.

“We have had a good run lately, coming in off the back of two wins. We’re hoping to keep that momentum up.

“I have been trying to beat Harry for a lot of years. We are in a different position this weekend, with momentum on our side, I want to be pushing pretty hard to stay in front. That’s our target.

“Whichever way the results go. We both had a very solid year, so I’m looking forward to the battle.”

Photo: Daniel Kalisz

Harry Bates
Current points: 371
Points post-drop round*: 353
Maximum points: 481

If Harry wins the event and Lewis finishes second to fourth, then he will need to essentially win the power stage.

If Harry wins the event and Lewis finishes fifth or below, then Harry will win his second title no matter how many bonus points he scores in the EROAD Power Stage.

If Harry finishes second and Lewis finishes fifth, then it will go down to the EROAD Power Stage – and he will need Lewis to finish fourth, fifth or lower on the stage to win the title.

“For us the plan is to go out and attack. We are 31 points down and we have a bit of a job to do this weekend.

“We have been struggling in the second half of the year with reliability, so we really need the car to hold together. Performance wise, we haven’t lacked though as we have had a few strong rallies.

“I don’t come in worrying about my pace. We just need to make sure we have a clean week at Coffs, which is notoriously tough and really difficult on both man and machine. Need to make sure we keep noses clean and that we are there on the podium.

“It’s an interesting scenario. Being brothers, teammates and going up against a championship is a little bit different, but we go in the same way we approach every rally.

“Our goal is always to win stages and get the best result possible. You don’t find yourself against a sibling for rather high stakes, but Lewis and I have always been supportive of others and still are today.”

Photo: Dakar Press Team Australia

Richie Dalton
Current Points: 289
Points post-drop round*: 289
Maximum points: 399

If Richie wins and both Lewis and Harry retire, then he will win regardless of the EROAD Power Stage.

If Richie wins, Lewis retires and Harry doesn’t finish inside the top 10, then Richie will win if he finishes third or higher in the EROAD Power Stage.

If Richie wins, Lewis retires and Harry finishes ninth or 10th, then Richie will need to win the EROAD Power Stage.

If Richie wins, Lewis scores points in the rally and Harry retires, then Richie will need to win the rally and Lewis finish sixth or lower In the EROAD Power Stage.

“I’m pumped for Coffs. It’s where I did my first rally and I am hoping for a big weekend, so there won’t be a different approach to any other event and I am fully committed,” Dalton said.

“Going up against Quinny in his own backyard. The last time we did that was in 2017 when he won the ARC Championship, but I beat him, so it should be fun.

“Otherwise. It’s going to be a really interesting weekend and I am really excited for the weekend.”

Photo: Dakar Press Team Australia

Troy Dowel
Current Points: 310
Points post-drop round*: 286
Maximum points: 396

With very little separating Dowel and Dalton, the young consistent driver needs a lot to go his way to win the title.

The main scenario that needs to happen is that if Dowel wins, he will need to score more points than Dalton in the overall event and both Lewis and Harry to retire.

“The goal will be to finish on a high and keep the ball rolling from the last two rounds where I managed to get on the podium twice, so I want to keep the flow going for next season.

“Tasmania is the first round next year, so a good result from Coffs will do a lot of wonders for the confidence of our season next year.”

Feature Photo: Jack Martin