At the start of April 2019, Western Australia was the place to be as the RSEA Motorsport Australia Rally Championship held its first round of the season.
Taking place around the forests near Nannup, the Make Smoking History Forest Rally saw 48 crews take on the 18 stage rally, but there was one crew who dominated the field to convincingly win the season opener.
It was a masterclass from the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia pairing of Harry Bates and John McCarthy, with the duo winning a remarkable 13 stages and picking up maximum points – as well as a bonus point for the most stage wins.
The eventual champions began the round locked in an entertaining battle with Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammates Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin with each crew grabbing a tight victory in the two Super Special Stages at Barnard Park in Busselton.
Heading into the next day trailing brother Lewis by one tenth of a second after the SSS, Harry turned it on for the remainder of the first heat, winning six of the next eight stages and ending the day 30 seconds ahead of Lewis, while local favourites and stage nine winners Tom Wilde and Madeline Kirkhouse occupied third place ahead of Subaru’s Molly Taylor and Malcolm Read.
The final day of the first round saw the Bates brothers continue their battle, but not before Harry had extended the gap to more than a minute thanks to three commanding early stage wins.
Lewis managed to win two consecutive stages during the heat, but his time at the top was short lived as Harry regained control, comfortably taking out the final three stages to claim a deserving one minute and 20 second win over his brother.
The final spot on the podium went to Darren Windus and Daniel Brick after the sole Victorian team worked their way up from fifth thanks to a consistent afternoon behind the wheel.
The crew ultimately shared third place with Wilde and Kirkhouse after the latter finished the second heat in fifth place, while Taylor and Read rounded out the top five after a disappointing final day, where mechanical gremlins prevented their charge to the podium.
In the event’s other classes, the outright runners-up enjoyed ARC2 top honours, Haowen Chu and Caleb Ash claimed the ARC2WD and Truck Wholesale WA’s John O’Dowd and Toni Feaver led the local charge, taking out the Motorsport Australia Western Australia Rally Championship victory.