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.