Frosty conditions greeted drivers in the forests surrounding Launceston, with Championship leader Harry Bates leading the charge at Subaru Rally Tasmania.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver holds a 36 second lead halfway through the opening heat, with Subaru do Motorsport’s Molly Taylor sitting second.
All CAMS Australian Rally Championship (ARC) drivers reported plenty of near misses and moments, with the icy conditions meaning a cautious approach was being taken by all the crews.
Meanwhile, Bates’ teammate and younger brother Lewis sits in third in the Toyota Yaris AP4 – the younger Bates saying he had never driven in conditions similar to this during his time in rallying – highlighting just how tricky the roads have been this morning.
Shamrock Motorsport’s Richie Dalton returned to the lunchtime service in fourth, about 90 seconds behind the leader but in positive spirits, thanks to a consistent morning.
Four-time ARC Champion Simon Evans had a mixed morning in his return to the ARC, with plenty of quick times, before a gearbox issue on the morning’s final stage left him in fifth overall. The Les Walkden prepared Subaru WRX STi returned to the service park for a new gearbox, with Evans confident of a strong afternoon.
Timothy Auty and co-driver Jon Mitchell lead the crews who are cross-entered in both the ARC and Dunlop Motul Tasmanian Rally Championship, with their Mazda 323 GTR two minutes and 41 seconds adrift of Bates.
Crews return to the forests for this afternoon’s stages to determine the winner of the opening heat, before doing it all again tomorrow before the Subaru Rally Tasmania winners are declared on Sunday afternoon.