It was always going to be one of them.
Until Saturday (18 November), the numbers for this year’s Australian Rally Championship (ARC) pointed to ultimate victory for either Harry or Lewis Bates from Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia.
Armed with a heavily modified Toyota GR Yaris each, the local brothers competed against each other over the two days, 12 stages,and 180 kilometres that made up the Subaru Canberra Rally of Canberra.
But by the end of the final ‘Power Stage’ at Kowen Village, near Queanbeyan, Harry – along with co-driver Coral Taylor – (Car 2) were named winners by an excruciatingly tight 2.1 seconds over Lewis and co-driver Anthony McLoughlin (Car 1).
“Very, very special – to be honest, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Harry said.
“To be able to win my second championship in Canberra in front of all my family and friends – it is a very special feeling.”
Harry has won the ARC three times, twice here in Canberra. This places him alongside the top drivers of the event, including legend Cody Crocker, who stood where Harry was in 2003 and then every year from 2005 to 2008.
It’s also Coral Taylor’s fifth ARC crown. She made the other four as co-driver alongside Harry’s father, Neal Bates.
“That teamwork within a rally car is quite unusual and difficult to explain to people who don’t understand this sport, but to work in that environment, in a car at speed – a co-driver and a driver working to get through every corner as fast as humanly possible – is a pretty special job,” Coral said.
Coral’s daughter, Molly, also competed on the day with Subaru Australia. Molly won the ARC in 2016 to become the first and only woman to do so in the history of the rally and the youngest, regardless of gender.
After Lewis and Anthony McLoughlin in second place, Eddy Maguire and Zak Brakey in their Skoda (Car 3) came third for the national title.
The weekend also decided winners for the ACT and NSW state champions.
The ACT title was won by Michael Harding and James Thorburn in their Subaru Impreza WRX (Car 24) for Techworkz Automotive, finishing in 15th place outright.
The NSW championship was won by the Shamrock Haulage pairing of Richie Dalton and Dale Moscatt, who finished in 9th outright in their Toyota GR Yaris (Car 9).
“I think everyone deserves a day off tomorrow so they can party hard tonight,” Harry said.
The next Rally of Canberra will be held in April, this time as the starting round to ARC 2024. The season wraps up this time next year at Rally Launceston in Tasmania.