Harry Bates wins opening round of the 2017 Australian Rally Championship

20/3/2017

Harry Bates Corolla S2000 rallycar

Toyota’s Harry Bates has become the youngest driver ever to win a round in the Australian Rally Championship by taking out Victoria’s Eureka Rally, the opening round of the 2017 season.

Bates, 22, from Canberra and co-driver John McCarthy in the Toyota Genuine Parts Corolla were part of a three-way duel over two days and 18 competitive stages totalling 220km around Ballarat.

Harry bates and John McCarthy after winning the 2017 Eureka Rally

Harry Bates, John McCarthy and the Toyota Genuine Parts S2000 Corolla, winners of the 2017 Eureka Rally.

Bates won the first day by 14.8 seconds, with just 7.9 seconds covering the top three competitors over the two-day event.

Nathan Quinn was second in a Mitsubishi and Eli Evans third in a Peugeot.

Bates’ win, with six stage victories, came on the birthday of his father and crew chief, four-times national rally champion Neal Bates.

“It was a full-on contest between the three of us from the first stage, with the overall lead swapping around stage by stage,” Harry Bates said.

“The roads were very dusty and the battle was intense with the result in the balance until the very end, which makes it even more rewarding to come out on top and record the win.

“My co-driver John McCarthy and the whole team did a great job; and the win was even better since Sunday was Dad’s birthday as well.”

Family celebrations were tempered by desperately bad luck for Harry Bates’ younger brother Lewis, whose Corolla was destroyed.

Lewis Bates burnt rallycar

“Lewis went off the road at a crest and the car became stuck in soft sand,” Harry Bates said. “Then it caught fire and burned to the ground. We’re all devastated for him.”

The next event on the Australian Rally Championship calendar is the Make Smoking History Forest Rally in Western Australia from April 21 to 23.

Toyota motorsport: In 2017, Toyota marks the 60th anniversary of its first international motorsport entry (and the first by a Japanese car manufacturer), when it contested the 1957 Round Australia Trial. This is why many people consider Australia to be the birthplace of Toyota motorsport. Today, Toyota contests the FIA-sanctioned World Rally Championship (WRC), World Endurance Championship (WEC) which features the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the gruelling Dakar Rally. Closer to home, the Toyota 86 Racing Series seeks to develop the talent of tomorrow as Australia’s premier grassroots circuit-racing category.

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 heldĀ 9th – 11th September 2016.