A fighting third place finish in the fifth and final round of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) has netted the Toyota Genuine Parts team of Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy third overall in the 2016 title race.
Three minutes clear of their nearest competitor at the beginning of the rally’s final day, Bates and McCarthy were running to a conservative strategy with victory in sight when a puncture brought their championship hopes undone.
“We were happy with our pace, and had built a healthy lead going into the last day when a stray rock caused the front right tyre to explode,” Harry said.
“Changing it lost us a lot of time, compounded by the fact the shredded tyre split the brake line, so we had no brakes to finish the long (30km) stage, and ultimately lost five minutes,” he said.
Despite the final day drama, the team’s third place Rally Australia finish meant they took third in the title race with just eight points covering the top three ARC places.
Rally Australia centres on Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales north coast with 23 competitive stages covering a mix of shire roads and private trails, from the Woolgoolga hinterland to the north and as far south as Bowraville and Nambucca Heads.
The event combines international entrants from the World Rally Championship (WRC) with ARC competition, and Bates was excited to mix it with the best drivers on the planet, including now four-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier.
“Competing with the WRC field this weekend was very exciting. My ultimate goal is to step up and compete at the top level, so to mix it with my heroes was special,” Harry said.
“Obviously, we’re bitterly disappointed to miss the win this weekend, but we’ve learned a lot this year, and running so consistently at the front of the field has been amazing; we’re full of optimism for 2017,” he said.
Harry’s S2000 Corolla was the very car in which his father Neal and Coral Taylor won their fourth Australian Rally Championship in 2008.
The ARC finish podium at the World Rally Championship event was a family affair, with Coral Taylor and Harry Bates’ father Neal winning their fourth Classic championship in a 1980 Toyota Celica world rally replica and, of course, Coral’s daughter Molly winning both the round and the 2017 ARC championship.
Now it’s all hands on deck back at the workshop in Canberra to prepare for an exciting start to the 2017 season!