Bates salutes in Canberra and gets into gear for Launceston

The Toyota Yaris AP4 of Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy negotiating the dirt roads of Tidbinbilla in the Canberra leg of the Australian Rally Championship. Picture: Jack Martin
The Toyota Yaris AP4 of Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy negotiating the dirt roads of Tidbinbilla in the Canberra leg of the Australian Rally Championship. Picture: Jack Martin

Shire resident Harry Bates has taken a commanding lead in the chase for the 2019 Australian Rally Championship title, with a win in the second round of the six-round series.

Bates, 24, who lives in Sylvania, came into last weekend's Netier National Capital Rally in Canberra leading the tally after winning the first round in Perth last month.

The weekend started with Harry and co-driver John McCarthy on 81 points, with Harry's younger brother Lewis and co-driver Anthony McLoughlin on 68 points, after the brothers finished one-two in WA.

Harry and John's tally now stands at 142 points; Lewis rolled his car halfway through the Canberra event, and was unable to repair it in time to continue to the finish.

The ACT round was a new look for the championship, with just eight short competitive stages run over one day, rather than the two long days of competition in other rounds of the series.

Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy celebrate victory in the Canberra leg of the Australian Rally Championship. Picture: Jack Martin

Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy celebrate victory in the Canberra leg of the Australian Rally Championship. Picture: Jack Martin

Competitors found the forest road conditions quite challenging. It rained heavily in Canberra the day before the event, so the stages were very slippery and unpredictable in places.

''For the first few stages, John and I put a lot of emphasis on reading the surface changes and maximising our speed in the areas where we thought we could push the limits,'' Harry said.

''By the afternoon though, the stages were dry and we found that a lot more fun!''

The proof was in the pudding: Harry and John and their Toyota Yaris AP4 won seven of the day's eight stages. Only long-time friend Molly Taylor was able to ruin their perfect score. The strong run by the Subaru driver (and Kiwi- based co-driver Malcolm Read) saw them finish second for the weekend, and now second in the title chase, on 98 points.

Harry says part of the reason he was able to drive so hard, was the confidence of knowing he had a solid and reliable car underneath him.

His Yaris is run by his father, four-time Australian rally champion Neal Bates, and Neal's highly experienced service crew.

Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy at the completion of Canberra leg of the Australian Rally Championship. Picture: Jack Martin

Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy at the completion of Canberra leg of the Australian Rally Championship. Picture: Jack Martin

''There is no doubt in my mind that I have a very good car, which is a testament to the small but hard working and genius team of peopl at Neal Bates Motorsport.

''Having said that, I have a list of things I want to look at improving before the next round in Tasmania in six weeks' time. I don't believe anything is ever at its peak in motorsport.

"We need to keep looking at what we can develop and where we can improve.''

While Harry has been ensconced in Sylvania for just over a year, he was born and bred in the ACT, so the Canberra rally was essentially his home event.

He says winning there is an amazing feeling.

''Standing on the podium in front of so many people who stand by us and support us in what we do will always be special. It almost feels like, by winning at home, I can give my loved ones something to celebrate, and to show that their hard work isn't for nothing.''

Third outright for the weekend was the privateer crew of Mick Patton and Bernie Webb.

The next round of the CAMS ARC series will be based in Launceston, Tasmania, and run over the weekend of June 21-23.