Bates’ winning streak broken in WA

| Photographer Credit: Luke Whitten

It’s taken two of the most famous names in Australian motorsport, but new life has finally been breathed into the Australian Rally Championship.

Fresh from Shane van Gisbergen’s incredible second place in the opening round of the championship in Canberra last month, it was Eli Evans (main photo) who set the initial pace at the Forest Rally.

Harry Bates and his Toyota Yaris AP4 have not been beaten in an ARC round since 2018, but on the slippery Western Australian gravel that he enjoys so much, Evans shot out of the blocks.

He won three of the rally’s opening four super special stages, then beat Bates on the first forest stage on Saturday morning, moving into a lead of over six seconds.

Lewis Bates – Toyota Yaris AP4

The fairytale wasn’t to last though. On the day’s second stage the Mini Cooper AP4 suffered a fuel pump failure and his day was done.

Like it had done in Canberra, the four-time Australian Rally Champion’s Mini Cooper AP4 caught fire early on day two, and although the damage wasn’t as severe as it had been in Canberra, it was enough to see him retire again.

Still, like van Gisbergen, he’d made a statement that Bates wasn’t going to have it all his own way this year.

Bates would win the first heat, but his winning streak came to an end on the second day when his car wouldn’t start in service at the start of the day. By the time the car was started he had accumulated 80 seconds in penalties.

That enabled his younger brother, Lewis, to secure his first ARC heat win in what was a Toyota 1-2-3. Privateer, Richie Dalton, finished in second in his ex-works Yaris, ahead of Bates in third.

Overall, Harry Bates maintained his ARC winning streak, but the challengers are coming.

“We actually thought we had a chance of winning the event outright when Harry had his problems, but he did a great job in recovering and getting the victory, so it wasn’t to be just yet, but our time is coming,” Lewis Bates said.

“The penalties were out of our control,” Harry Bates added, “and all we could do was drive as hard as we could and try to overtake a few people, and we ended up getting third for the Heat.

“It’s nice to know that we have the pace when we need it and I can turn it on when I have to.”

Max McRae – Subaru Impreza WRX

Another podium challenger, Arron Windus, crashed out of third place in his Subaru-engined Ford Fiesta early on the first day, while third generation driver, Max McRae, survived a day two off to finish second in  the Production Cup category in a Subaru Impreza WRX.

“Before I came to this rally there were a few unknowns: I’d done a round of ARC before in Queensland, but that was in the Fiesta two-wheel drive car,” McRae said.

“Driving a Subaru in Production Cup in ARC is a step up. I knew that. What I didn’t know was where my pace would be.

“To have won 14 of the 17 stages gives me a good understanding of where I am,” he added.

The Australian Rally Championship resumes in a month’s time when crews head south to Tasmania for Rally Launceston.

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

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