Harry Bates Victorious in 2017 Rally of Canberra

Bates S2000 CorollaToyota Genuine Parts Corolla driver Harry Bates has regained the lead in the Australian Rally Championship by winning the 2017 National Capital Rally.

Bates and co-driver John McCarthy overcame rough roads and unexpected heavy rain to finish almost 90 seconds ahead of Subaru’s Molly Taylor, with Mitsubishi’s Mick Patton third overall.

He now leads the series from Taylor by 195 to 192 points after the third of five rounds in this year’s championship.

Bates led the event from the start, only relinquishing top spot once to Taylor after the second stage. Regaining the lead in stage three, Bates was not headed again. He claimed seven of the 13 completed special stages – a total of 212km of competitive driving – to secure a bonus point for the most stage wins.

Autumn sunshine greeted competitors for Heat 1 on Saturday, with Bates winning five of the day’s eight special stages to beat previous series leader Nathan Quinn (Mitsubishi) by 16.3 seconds, with Taylor third.

Bucketing rain provided a new challenge as the rally moved into the Brindabella Mountains for Heat 2, with conditions forcing organisers to cancel the penultimate stage.

The win was particularly satisfactory given the testing conditions, with wet weather forcing the cancellation of Special Stage 13, but also in light of the problems that affected Bates’ S2000-spec Toyota Corolla in the previous round in Western Australia.

“We all worked really hard in the preparation; the guys in the workshop as well as John and I studying the videos of last year’s event,” he said.

“The roads were especially rough this year; a number of crews suffered suspension problems, but our Corolla with Toyota Genuine Parts was strong to the end.

“We overcame an early problem on Saturday to win three stages in a row in the afternoon, building a 16-second lead, so we were very happy.

“On Sunday morning, rain in the Brindabella’s was a real challenge, a balancing act between protecting the rally lead and not being too conservative or losing concentration.”

The National Capital Rally also saw Harry’s brother Lewis and his father Neal, a four-time ARC title-holder, competing in different classes.

Lewis Bates (Toyota Corolla) was forced to retire while Neal Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor, in their Toyota Celica RA40, won 11 of the 13 special stages in the Classic category.

However, a wheel alignment problem on Saturday afternoon cost them any hope of an overall victory.

Round four of the national championship will be held in South Australia’s Barossa Valley from September 15-17.

Harry Bates Looking Forward to ACT Rally

Neal Bates Motorsport Toyota Corolla S2000 rallycar

2017 Forest Rally: Harry Bates and John McCarthy in action during the 2017 Forest Rally.

Toyota Genuine Parts driver Harry Bates will look to fight back in his ‘home’ round of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) in the national capital next month.

Bates won the opening round in Victoria, but two tyre punctures and mechanical problems in Sunday’s Heat 2 of the Forest Rally in Western Australia have seen the Corolla driver slip from first to third on points.

Saturday’s Heat 1 in the forests near Busselton was hailed as a great day’s rallying; a see-sawing encounter with four crews winning stages and the rally lead changing five times.

Bates and co-driver John McCarthy finished the heat just 3.1 seconds behind Molly Taylor (Subaru), in a duel of second-generation rally talent.

Harry is the son of Neal Bates and Molly is the daughter of Coral Taylor – Toyota’s four-time national rally champion pair.

Harry Bates won two stages in Heat 1 and two in succession in Heat 2 to close to within six seconds of Taylor before problems occurred.

He rejoined the rally before the final control to secure vital points for seventh place.

“Saturday was a good; a really tight battle all day even though we struggled on a few stages,” Bates said.

“It was great to see my good friend Molly Taylor get a Heat win.

“During the first stage on Sunday morning we had a puncture and lost a bit of time.

“We hoped to make up time, but we then had a second puncture and lost one minute and 20 seconds. We were still trying to recover as much time as we could, but the car came to a halt on Stage 17,” Bates said.

“The Forest Rally is known for ‘ball-bearing’ gravel and that’s an extra factor when you’re the first car on it – in effect you’re sweeping the road.

“As title leaders coming here we knew we would be car 1 and I really enjoyed the challenge.”

The ARC points tally after Forest Rally WA is: Nathan Quinn, 132; Molly Taylor, 126; Harry Bates, 114; and Eli Evans, 104.