Harry Bates aims for WRC shot at 2017 Rally Australia

Yaris AP4 rallycarAfter a difficult new car debut at Rally South Australia last month ruined his Australian Rally Championship, Harry Bates has decided to step up to compete in the WRC2 cars at Rally Australia.

The Toyota Yaris AP4 built by Neal Bates Motorsport for this year’s ARC will switch to run Michelin tyres for the WRC weekend.

The debut of the new Toyota Yaris AP4 didn’t go to plan for the Neal Bates Motorsport team, with an engine problem stemming from an issue with the turbocharger wastegate meaning they only completed one stage in South Australia.

“As a team, we’ve made the decision to withdraw from the ARC title race, and we are putting all of our efforts in to nabbing a strong result in the WRC at Rally Australia next month,” Harry Bates said.

“Not an easy decision, but this gives us the opportunity to compete using the same tyre as the international teams, and I can’t wait to see what the Toyota Yaris AP4 can do on the awesome roads around Coffs Harbour.”

With the ARC title chance all but gone, Bates is looking to the future and a possible drive overseas in coming years.

“Ever since the end of 2016, when we came painfully close to winning the Australian Rally Championship, we have worked harder than ever before to put ourselves in a position to achieve what we couldn’t last year,” he said.

“I think we have put together a bunch of solid performances this season, performances we are very proud of. Unfortunately, despite our speed and consistency, the numbers are against us to make the dream win happen this season due to some technical issues, particularly at the most recent round.”

As part of the development and test program, the team intends to take the Yaris to Imbil in Queensland to run in a rallysprint prior to Rally Australia. The roads and weather there are similar to those in Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour.

Harry’s brother Lewis is also making a step up for the event, moving from a front wheel drive Corolla to the S2000 Corolla that Harry had been running up until the South Australia round.

Taylor and Bates Inducted to the Motorsport Hall of Fame

Neal Bates and Coral Taylor inducted into the Motorsport Hall of Fame

Neal Bates and Coral Taylor, with Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb (centre) at the induction ceremony.

Toyota’s four-time national rally champions Neal Bates and Coral Taylor have been inducted into the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame during a gala dinner in Melbourne.

Launched in 2016, the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame recognises achievement across motor racing, motorcycling, rallying, off-road, drag racing, karting and speedway.

Bates is one of only five rally drivers inducted since the Hall of Fame was created, while Taylor is the first woman and first co-driver to be included in the current list of 51 inductees.

Bates and Taylor have represented Toyota in Australia for 25 years, winning the Australian Rally Championship in 1993, 94, 95 and 2008, as well as Targa Tasmania in 1995 and the 2012 Australian Classic Rally Championship.

They also competed in World Rally Championship events for Toyota Team Europe.

Chairman of the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame Garry Connelly said it is fitting that multiple championship winners like Neal and Coral, who have also done much to increase the profile of rallying in Australia, should be inducted.

“Their places – with Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray, Ross Dunkerton, Colin Bond and Possum Bourne – as icons of rallying in this country are well deserved,” he said.

Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said Bates and Taylor have been the company’s flag bearers in motor sport for a quarter of a century, and continue to contribute as both ambassadors and on the technical side.

“Neal Bates Motorsport developed the performance kit used in our Toyota 86 Racing Series, while Neal’s son Harry last weekend recorded his first national rally championship victory in Victoria,” Mr Cramb said.

“They must surely be one of the most enduring rally driver/co-driver pairings anywhere in the world.”

Bates said it was an honour to be recognised.

“I am proud of what we’ve achieved as a team,” he said. “The focus is often on the driver, but it is a team effort – from Coral’s vital role with the pace notes to the service crew.

“I have been fortunate to have Toyota’s backing and some very good people around me for many years.”

Coral Taylor said it was a special honour to be the first woman inducted.

“I was totally surprised to get the notification letter,” she said. “I’ve had the privilege of sitting beside the driver I consider to be the best in Australia for the last 25 years.

“Toyota has been part of our lives through it all and still is, with classic rallies and ambassadorial functions like this week’s launch for the new season of the Toyota 86 Racing Series.

“The amazing part for me is that I didn’t set out to do it. I did one rally with my father (Norm Fritter) in 1979. That grew into a serious hobby and then a career,” she said.

Coral Taylor

Coral Taylor

Neal Bates

Neal Bates

Bates and Taylor win Rally Australia classics


“It’s been another perfect weekend for us, the car has been faultless, and I have the team to thank for all their hard work,” said Neal on the podium. “It’s great to be able to drive this car on the same roads as the World Rally Cars, and even better to come away with the win.”

Bates finished ahead of the hard charging Matt Ruggles in the Triumph TR7 and Irish flyer Michael O’Hagon in his Ford Escort.

The Neal Bates Motorsport Celica led from start to finish, with Bates praising the resilience of his Toyota Celica RA40 and his Canberra based team who built it.

Harry Bates impresses on rally debut

Neal Bates admitted he was ‘blown away’ by his son Harry’s performance as stand-in co-driver during their victory in the International Rally of Queensland at the weekend.
The father-son duo won all but one stage of the rally’s classic section in their 1980 Toyota Celica RA40 to beat their nearest rival by more than five-and-a-half minutes.

Bates said Harry had delivered his pace notes efficiently despite it being his first competition rally. “I didn’t expect him to do so well,” he said. “I had hoped it would be a good learning experience but he really impressed me and showed he did his homework.

“The conditions were pretty tough too with overnight rain making the roads quite slippery.”
Harry prepared for the rally under the tutelage of Bates’ long-time co-driver and four-time national champion Coral Taylor, who was unable to participate in the event due to a commitment in Europe.

The 18-year-old said Taylor’s expert guidance prepared him for what was an initially daunting but memorable experience. “I can’t thank Coral enough for all she did,” he said. “I went into it with a good idea of preparing and calling out pace notes and just generally being organised. “Even still, I felt a little bit of pressure when I got in the car on Saturday morning!”

He said the slipperier surface on Sunday only added to the exhilaration of riding as a passenger in the thoroughbred Celica with his four-time national champion father. “It was great fun and pretty amazing to be out in the car with dad,” he said. “I did grab the door handle pretty tight a few times though on Sunday!”

Harry, who will finish high school this year, said he hoped to get another opportunity to co-drive, but he was not about to take Taylor’s seat.

“After 20 years and four national championships it’s going to be a bit hard to do that!” he said.
“I would also like to get into the driving side so I’ll chat to dad about that, too.”