Harry Bates took his first Heat win in the Toyota Corolla S2000 in the Quit Forest Rally. Simon Evans then took revenge in Heat 2 with his Subaru…
Running as fifth car on the road, Bates took full advantage of the swept roads throughout the morning stages extending his lead to 21.4 seconds by the conclusion of SS6 before an off-road excursion on SS7 had him worried that he’d blown it all.
“I almost threw it all away, I just came down and un-braked myself plain and simple. I remembered the corner from the first pass and thought potentially I could brake a little bit later, but not that late, so went off the road about 20 or 30 meters. At the time I thought I had cost us the Heat but we had a really good run through Ferndale (SS8) and then held ourselves together over the short stages around Nannup,” Bates said.
Four-time Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans and his co-driver Ben Searcy pushed Bates throughout the day but had the difficult job of being first car on the road and sweeping the surface for the rest of the field. They finished Heat One in second outright.
“I feel satisfied, we drove hard and yeah we had a bit of a disadvantage sweeping the roads but that’s just part of being car one on the road,” Evans said. “Harry did a great job, my hat goes off to him because you have to be a decent driver to get a good result here and he’s proven he’s got the talent. Hell he might even be better than his dad (Australian rally legend Neal Bates)”, Evans he joked.
Mark Pedder and Dale Moscatt finished third outright ahead of the crews of Molly Taylor/Bill Hayes, Justin Dowel/Toni Feaver and Tom Wilde/Nick Clements.
In the Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship drama for leading crews Sean Keating/Caleb Ash and Brad Markovic/Glenn Macneall during the morning stages left the field wide open and ultimately it was Mike Young/Cameron Tunstall who took the Heat One honours.
“We definitely weren’t expecting to come out with a win today, this weekend was about dusting off the cobwebs before the opening round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in New Zealand next weekend.
The crews of Oxley/Wood and Garry Whittle/Stephan Vass rounded out the top three for the Heat.
In the Australian Classic Challenge Neal Bates and Coral Taylor took Heat One honours finishing more than 5 minutes ahead of the nearest rivals John Ludlam/Justin Willis in second and Andy van Kann/Madelin Kirkhouse in third.
It wasn’t a walk in the park for the four-time Australian Rally Champion with Evans/Searcy pushed all the way by young gun Harry Bates and his co-driver John McCarthy.
“It’s a long trip over here so you always want to make sure you get some points but I love this, I just love being out here,” Evans said. “The way I look at it they’ve closed all the forests off just for me so it’s just fantastic,” he continued.
“The young fellas (Bates/McCarthy) just caught us unawares,” Simon said. “We were pretty happy with our pace, sweeping the roads out the front, and I thought everything was pretty sweet and then someone said ‘Harry’s kicking your butt’ and I was like; damn it,” Simon joked on the podium.
“Simon and I will leave here on a similar amount of points which for me is obviously still beyond what I expected coming into the weekend, so I think although I’m disappointed I’m not a bit closer to him today and that we couldn’t get that top spot but we still need to be happy with the weekend,” Bates said.
Justin Dowel/Toni Feaver and Molly Taylor/Bill Hayes finished the event on equal points in the race for the final spot on the podium. The tie was broken by calculating the total competitive time for each crew across the entire event, with Dowel/Feaver the crew ultimately joining Evans/Searcy and Bates/McCarthy in third outright.
Disaster struck for Mark Pedder/Dale Moscatt on the third last stage of the event, a broken tie rod signalling the end of their rally and robbing them from an almost guaranteed position on the podium.
The opening round of the Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship ran alongside the ARC with dramas for all the pre-event favourites across the weekend throwing a blanket over the field and leaving it up to the final stage to determine the ultimate winner.
Asia Pacific Rally Championship contender Mike Young and his co-driver Cameron Tunstall backed up their Heat One victory with a strong fourth over today’s stages giving them enough points to take the outright victory for the weekend.
Following a broken drive shaft and a timing penalty leaving them well down the order in Heat One, local Nannup driver Tom Wilde and his co-driver Nick Clements recovered to win Heat Two by 24.4 seconds handing them a second outright for the weekend. Michael Steele/Tracey Dewhurst finished the event in third outright.
Neal Bates and Coral Taylor once again took top spot on the podium in the Australian Classic Rally Challenge. John Ludlam/Justin Willis finished in second and Andy van Kann/Madelin Kirkhouse in third.
Jason and Paul Lowther were victorious in the Clubman Cup Series, winning by the narrowest of margins (2.3 seconds) over Dene Courtis/Robert King with Carl and Tracey Rattenbury rounding out the podium for the event.