Bates and McCarthy hit ARC lead in Queensland

Harry Bates Corolla rally car

Harry Bates and John McCarthy on their way to second place at the 2016 International Rally of Queensland

The Toyota Genuine Parts team of Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy now leads the 2016 Australian Rally Championship (ARC) after a hard-fought second place at the weekend’s International Rally of Queensland (June 17-19).

Trailing the eventual winner by less than a minute after close to 200km of competitive stages, the team was happy with its performance in the first ‘endurance’ event of the season, widely regarded as the toughest on the ARC calendar.

Running through the Sunshine Coast hinterland, mainly within the Imbil State Forest about 35km west of Noosa Heads, the rally’s shortest stage is just 5.8km long, with the longest challenging teams over 27.3km of fast and rugged forestry trails.

As well as being round three of the ARC, the Queensland event was also round two of this year’s FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), bringing teams and drivers from Europe, China, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Japan and New Zealand; not to mention a huge TV audience stretching across 120 countries.

In a breakthrough performance Bates and McCarthy took a stage victory against all comers, including the full ARC and APRC fields.

Now sitting 27 points clear at the top of the ARC table with just two rounds remaining, Bates said accurate pace notes and a clear focus in pre-event testing were critical to success in Queensland.

“This rally is a big challenge and definitely busy on the notes, with lots of tightening bends, fast corners and sharp crests,” Harry said.

“We drove a front-wheel drive Corolla in this event last year so I got a feel for the surface, and the all-wheel drive Toyota Genuine Parts Corolla S2000 was a blast to steer here,” he said.

“Day one was basically dry, but day two was diabolically wet; some sections were as slippery as ice. But we were able to maintain our dry stage times, which was amazing,” he said.

Despite the harsh conditions, easy access at the long-running Queensland event allowed hardy spectators to focus on key viewing points like ‘Sterling Crossing’, ‘Casey’s Corner’ and ‘Brownie’s Hairpin’.

Neal Bates and Coral Taylor were again victorious in the Classics, winning on both Saturday and Sunday in the Toyota Celica RA40.

Next event in the Australian Rally Championship is the Lightforce Rally SA, to be held 9th – 11th September 2016.

Harry Bates second at 2016 Quit Forest Rally, Neal wins Classic Challenge

Harry_2-1Harry Bates has surprised his more experienced rivals by taking Heat One honours at the Quit Forest Rally and coming second overall after a countback at round one of the 2016 Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship (ARC), in Busselton, Western Australia.

Driving a Neal Bates Motorsport Toyota Corolla S2000, Bates and co-driver John McCarthy held off multiple ARC champion, Simon Evans, to win Heat One by just 1.1 seconds.

Both Bates and Evans finished the overall event with the same points based on their positions in both Heat One and Heat Two, however, the bonus point given to Evans for recording the most stage wins during the event was enough to hand them the event victory.

“Simon and I will leave here on a similar amount of points, which for me is obviously still beyond what I expected coming into the weekend, so I think although I’m disappointed I’m not a bit closer to him today and that we couldn’t get that top spot but we still need to be happy with the weekend,” Bates said.

Bates admitted he was surprised with the Heat One win and feared he’d given it away when he braked too late on a corner in SS7, running wide off the. Fortunately for him, he was able to continue and managed to hold off the hard-charging Evans.

Keeping event honours in the family, Harry Bates’ father, Neal, co-driven by Coral Taylor, won the Australian Classic Challenge by over 5 minutes on both days of the rally.Neal_1

The next round of the ARC is on home ground for Harry and Neal – round two is the National Capital Rally, to be held in Canberra 27-29 May 2016.

Drivers to Compete for $125,000 in Toyota 86 Racing Series

Toyota 86 race car from the back

Toyota 86 race car from the back

Toyota has announced a generous prize pool of $125,000 for the first year of its grassroots Toyota 86 Racing Series.

The series, to be run at selected V8 Supercars events from 2016, will provide $50,000 cash for the series winner plus a $20,000 international VIP experience. Second place in the 2016 series will attract $30,000 cash while the third place-getter will receive $15,000.

An additional driver who finishes outside the top three and is judged a “rising star” will win an entry to a round of New Zealand’s Toyota Finance 86 championship, including flights and accommodation.

The Australian series is expected to start in May with other rounds scheduled for Sydney Motor Sport Park (August), Sandown (September), Bathurst (October) and Sydney Olympic Park (November).

Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the Toyota 86 Racing Series is an affordable, grassroots category designed to discover new motorsport talent.

Mr Cramb said the stellar careers of people like five-time Australian Touring Car champion and six-time Bathurst winner Mark Skaife and two-time Bathurst winner Tony Longhurst had begun with success in a one-make series.

“The Toyota 86 Racing Series is a great way for young amateur drivers to advance their careers, competing against and learning from professional drivers – all under the gaze of motorsport decision-makers and team owners,” Mr Cramb said.

“Drivers will also perform in front of substantial race-day crowds and large TV and internet broadcast audiences, which should assist them in gaining sponsors.

“The Toyota 86 Racing Series is the most cost-effective road to competing in Australia’s premier motorsport weekend at Bathurst in October.

“The front-engine, rear-drive 86 is ideally suited to close racing due to its superb handling and expected maximum speeds down Conrod Straight of about 230km/h.

“An entry fee of just $1,500 per round is easily the lowest amount for any mainstream national series, which reflects our desire to ensure the Toyota 86 Racing Series is affordable for anyone with the passion and talent to compete.

The grid at each round will accommodate a maximum of 32 cars, including up to five cars driven by professional drivers or other guests nominated by Toyota. The nominated drivers will not be eligible for points or prize money.

Competition will generally include three 20-minute races – one on the Saturday and two on the Sunday with grids determined by two practice sessions and a qualifying stage.

Draft sporting and technical regulations for the series have been issued by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS).

They provide details of control specifications including engine ECU, tyres, exhaust, brakes, suspension, roll cage and aero kit.

Toyota 86 race car from the front

Toyota 86 race car from the front

Neal Bates Motorsport developed the control specifications with a focus on safety and reliability while keeping costs as low as possible. Category management is by AirTime Autosport, run by motorsport identity Neil Crompton.

The Toyota 86 has been Australia’s best-selling sports car since its launch in 2012 and has now passed 15,000 sales on the local market.

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Great result for Harry Bates in 2015 Rally SA

Harry Bates in the NBM Corolla S2000

Harry Bates in the NBM Corolla S2000

Continuing his stellar rise, Harry Bates had a great weekend in the 2015 Rally SA, coming second overall in the 4WD class.

Having started the weekend with testing in mind, Bates went on to claim a spectacular debut Heat win. “It’s been an amazing weekend! We came in to learn as much as we could and the win is a bonus I suppose.”

Having burst onto the season at the 2015 National Capital Rally in Canberra, where he claimed third outright on only his third ever rally, Harry continues to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious father Neal Bates.

Harry tested the Super 2000 spec Toyota Corolla in the lead up to the recent Coates Hire Rally Australia, with a chance of stepping into the car on a more permanent basis next season.

“That’s the plan, to use it in some form next year,” explained Harry. “But after Rally Australia it was decided it made sense to use South Australia as a bit of an extended test session, to give me time in the car at an ARC level event.”

With just fifty kilometres of prior testing in the car under his belt, second place was an amazing result. It was Harry’s first first time competitively in a car that fast and his first time in a four-wheel drive rally car!