Harry Bates and John McCarthy have produced a masterclass performance on the first day of the Netier National Capital Rally, winning all of the day's 10 stages.
With 50 crews entered in the event, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia duo proved unstoppable as they picked up a clean sweep of stage wins in the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Cup.
Having entered Saturday’s halfway point with a lead of one and half minutes over their closest competitors in 2016 RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Champion (ARC) Molly Taylor and co-driver Dale Moscatt, Bates and McLaughlin continued to wreak havoc on the competition, extending their lead to more than two minutes by day's end.
While Taylor and Moscatt were unable to close the gap on the leaders, the Orange Motorsport Engineering Subaru WRX STi drivers comfortably ended the day in second place, despite locked in a tight battle with Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia’s Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin in the day’s final six stages.
Unfortunately Bates and McLoughlin went off on the first stage but after rejoining the field in SS5, they were in fine form, finishing second place on multiple stages - working their way up to within the top 15.
Rounding out the top three for the day were Clayton Hoy and Erin Kelly in the Mitsubishi Evo X with the duo’s opening four stages setting them up nicely for the rest of the day.
AGI Sport’s Luke Anear and Andy Sarandis recovered from tough opening stint to close the gap on Hoy and Kelly, with less than 20 seconds now separating the two crews.
Although Hoy and Kelly will be fully focused on beating Anear and Sarandis and getting a maiden national podium, the duo will also be keen to win the Hoosier Cup – which will see them get a free ticket into an ARC event next year.
Their biggest challengers come in the form of Chris Higgs and Steve Fisher, who currently occupy fifth on the outright standings and sit just 40 seconds behind.
With all three crews earned a number of top five placings today and showed what they're capable of, tomorrow should prove an epic battle for both the final podium spot and in the Hoosier Cup.
It’s far more spread out amongst the crews making up the rest of the top 10 with JJ Hatton and Nathan Long more than a minute ahead of the seventh placed Andrew Penny and Rhys Llewellyn, while Tony Quinn and Damien Roach are a further eight seconds behind.
In ninth place are Ryan Williams and Brad Jones in the R 'N' B Rally Team Mitsubishi Mirage with the junior drivers also comfortably leading the ARC 2WD Cup over their closest rivals in Adam Kaplan and Aleshia Penney, who are more than five minutes behind in 10th place.
In the MTA Motorsport Australia NSW Rally Championship, Hoy and Kelly’s brilliant Saturday run saw them claim the round, however with Tom Clarke and Ryan Preston bowing out on stage one, Tony Sullens and Kaylie Newell were crowned as champions after finishing in second place.
The ARC Cup and continues tomorrow with six stages, including the Power Stage, totalling 52 competitive kilometres with the first car to leave SS11 at 10.23am AEDT.
Top 10 after 10 stages
1. Harry Bates/John McCarthy 1:30:02.
2. Molly Taylor/Dale Moscatt +02:18.9
3. Clayton Hoy/Erin Kelly +05:55.3
4. Luke Anear/Andy Sarandis +06:12.9
5. Chris Higgs/Steve Fisher +06:35.2
6. JJ Hatton/Nathan Long +07:46.4
7. Tony Quinn/Damien Roach +08:53.7
8. Andrew Penny/Rhys Llewellyn +09:01.7
9. Ryan Williams/Brad Jones +11:54.4
10. Adam Kaplan/Aleshia Penney +16:56.5