Subaru do Motorsport team remains on target for CAMS Australian Rally Championship honours in 2017, after the first six stages of Kennards Hire Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.
The Subaru do duo of Molly Taylor and Bill Hayes again proved consistency is one of their greatest assets, in the Les Walkden Rallying-prepared Production Rally Class (PRC) All-Wheel Drive WRX STI.
The campaign began modestly with a fourth place on SS1 Pilbara I.
But then a fifth place on the day’s second stage, SS2 Eastbank I, was sufficient to elevate Subaru do to third overall in the ARC class – the minimum position the team needs to maintain, to bring home Championship honours on Sunday afternoon.
However, an in-car intercom failure on SS2 left the pair partially communicating via hand signals.
But the Subaru position was made more secure after the Mini Cooper AP4 of Eli Evans – winner of the day’s first stage – suffered a power steering problem on SS2, forcing a withdrawal until tomorrows Leg 2. It made top-three stage times all the more achievable for Taylor and Hayes.
Third place on the day’s equal longest stage, the 26.68 kilometre SS3 Sherwood 1, meant steady progress across the three morning tests, again demonstrating the high reliability of the WRX STI.
Midday service was followed by an even better run through SS4, the repeat of Pilbara, finishing second on stage, followed by a third place on SS5, the Eastbank repeat.
But there is no cause for complacency: Coffs Harbour local Nathan Quinn, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, represents the biggest challenge to Subaru do’s Championship aspirations, having secured overall first across four of the first five stages.
However, a puncture for Quinn on the lengthy SS6 Sherwood II, saw him drive 11km with tyre damage, relegating him to 7th on stage and giving Subaru do the opportunity to pounce – taking out first on stage and moving to second overall, just 38.3 seconds behind Quinn.
Just one quick burst around the 1.27 kilometre evening Super Special Stage at Coffs Harbour Jetty remains on today’s schedule.
Molly said: “It was a challenging morning. We had a bit of a problem with the intercom on the second stage, so we were communicating via hand signals, which isn’t ideal.
“But we came back strongly on three and have kept that momentum all afternoon, placing us exactly where we need to be.
“So on balance it’s been a good start to a long rally.”
Interestingly, like Evans, the Toyota Yaris AP4 of Harry Bates also experienced technical issues on its second time out, this time with reported steering problems. Mechanical issues put the Yaris out of ARC championship contention on debut at Rally South Australia, in September, prompting the team to cash in their chips and enter the WRC class in Coffs. But challenges remain with the car, which failed to continue during the afternoon.
Tomorrow’s Leg 2 covers a further eight stages over 140.27 km – the weekend’s longest stretch.
*Provisional results, subject to final confirmation by CAMS.
KENNARDS HIRE RALLY AUSTRALIA LEG ONE RESULTS – ONE STAGE REMAINING
1. Quinn/Searcy, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, 1:04:55.6
2. Taylor/Hayes, Subaru WRX STI, 1:05:33.9, +00:38.3
3. Hatton/Fisher, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, 1:07:05.7, +02:10.1