Australia could again have a regular driver in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) as new CAMS Australian Rally Champion, Harry Bates, steps up his plans for November’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia team driver, who clinched his title in South Australia on the weekend, wants to tackle the WRC next year.
He will use the season finale on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on November 14-17 to test himself against the world’s fastest rally drivers and showcase his talent in front of overseas team bosses.
Australia hasn’t had a regular driver in the WRC since Chris Atkinson and the Subaru factory team left after season 2008. Rally organisers believe Bates joining the series would significantly boost the sport’s popularity at home.
Victory on the Adelaide Hills Rally put the Australian championship beyond reach of the 24-year-old’s rivals with the final round still to run at Rally Australia, freeing him to focus on his WRC ambitions.
“I would love to next year try and get myself to Europe as well as doing the ARC. I’ve looked at all the options and there’s probably two really big options for someone like me to get where they ultimately want to be, which is in the World Rally Championship permanently,” the son of four-time Australian Rally Champion, Neal Bates, told RallySportMag.com.
Harry Bates has won all 10 heats of the 2019 ARC held so far. Photo: Jack Martin
“For me the two championships on offer are the Junior WRC or WRC 2. They’re the rallies I need to be doing if my end goal is to be in the World Rally Championship. Both of them provide exposure to the right rallies, in the right areas and to the right people.
“There are a lot of young guys now out there who are turning heads; Oliver Solberg and Kalle Rovanperä are two, even Nikolay Gryazin. There’s lots of young competitors, there always will be, so there’s no best time get over there.
“I think I’ve just got to back myself to do well against those guys and try and get over there.”
Bates told RallySportMag.com his strategy for Kennards Hire Rally Australia could include using the same Michelin tyres as the visiting internationals, instead of the MRFs mandated for the Australian series, allowing him to be more competitive.
“It would be really nice to turn up at Rally Australia and be on the best package we can be on and if that means getting the best tyres we can, then we’ll do that,” said Bates, who met Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC team members during a recent visit to Rally Finland.
Bates and McCarthy celebrate with the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia team. Photo: Jack Martin
“It would be really nice to see properly where the Toyota Yaris AP4 stacks up, especially at an event like that. Rally Australia is an incredible event and it’s our one opportunity every year to compete against the world’s best drivers.”
Rally Australia’s sporting chief, Clerk of the Course Wayne Kenny, congratulated Bates on his maiden championship and said Australia needed a regular driver in the WRC again.
“Harry Bates graduating to the WRC would be a major boost for the sport in Australia. There’s no doubt he has the talent and sporting background to be one of the best,” Kenny said.
“Meanwhile, we’ll watch with great interest to see how the new champion is able to challenge the overseas WRC2 drivers at Rally Australia.
“That’s a challenge that is open to any Australian driver with an eligible car, I should add. Entries for Rally Australia are open now for any driver who wants the bucket-list experience of competing at World Rally Championship event.”
Story: Chris Nixon
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