The year was 2003 and the expanding Toyota Team Racing announced in March that the second driver to Neal Bates in the new Group N (P) Corolla was to be his twin brother, Rick.
Fast forward to last Saturday, November 10, 2018, and the newly announced Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia team, run by Neal Bates Motorsport, would again feature two brothers as rallying teammates.
This new extra dimension to the 2019 Australian Rally Championship (ARC) saw the announcement of a second Toyota Yaris AP4 car to be driven by Lewis Bates, alongside current Toyota factory driver, his older brother, Harry.
Neal isn’t sure how he is going to go watching both his sons next year, but is as proud as he can be of his two boys and their new venture.
“I’m incredibly happy and incredibly proud of the two boys and the way they conduct themselves, and obviously they drive very well,” Neal told RallySport Mag.
But the set-up of the team wasn’t suggested by Neal to Toyota. Rather, Toyota approached Neal.
“I was pretty surprised when Toyota approached us to run two cars, but it’s great as we were building a second AP4 Yaris, and it’s a great opportunity for Lewis.
“It just means we now have even more to do,” he said as he reflected on the off-season they now have preparing the second car.
The new Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia livery will be debuted at Rally Australia this weekend. Photo: Neil Blackbourn
Harry Bates is very excited to have this new competition also.
“I’m really excited to be launching the iconic Toyota Gazoo Racing brand here in Australia, but am also so excited to have my younger brother as my team-mate and showing what we as a team are capable of with the AP4 Yaris,” he said with obvious pride. ‘
“We’ve had some bad luck this year with the Yaris, but the aim next year will be to get some good clean, strong results.”
And from a family point of view, how are you feeling about this?
“I never envisaged that I would be getting involved in motorsport when I was younger. I was always too busy doing other sports,” Harry says.
“But yes, Lewis and I always had a passion for driving, in a sort of side-by-side thing and then a Celica TA22, and it wasn’t until I was about 18 that I decided I wanted to try one rally.
“Then one rally became two rallies, let’s try doing one ARC round, then it became let’s try doing the whole ARC, and that’s when Toyota came up.
“But once this sport gets you it becomes very addictive,” Harry explained.
Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia was unveiled under Sydney's famous Harbour Bridge. Photo: Neil Blackbourn
And what does Lewis think of the new set-up for 2019?
“It’s great to be jumping in the AP4 Yaris next year. I mean, Harry has shown the speed of the car by at times beating the R5 Skodas this year,” enthused Lewis.
“It’s going to be a massive step up from the S2000 car. I’ve sat in with Harry at a couple of test days to get familiar with the car and find out how it works and what it does, but I am really looking forward to doing the first test.”
Like Harry, younger brother Lewis wasn’t always destined to be a rally driver either.
“I played soccer from when I was 5 until I was 17, and I was too involved in that,” he said.
“Harry and I always rode motorbikes and then buggies, and then an old Celica on the property, but then we started doing khanacrosses and hillclimbs, track days and all that, but I reckon we were destined to be in rally cars.”
“I think I was 17 when I decided I wanted to do my first rally, and Harry actually co-drove for me, but from that day I was hooked.”
So, look out for these two in 2019. It will be a fascinating season to see how the new team gets on during next year’s six-round ARC.
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