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A fighting third place finish in the fifth and final round of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) has netted the Toyota Genuine Parts team of Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy third overall in the 2016 title race.

Harry Bates finished third in the 2016 ARC. (Photo: Matt Whitten)Three minutes clear of their nearest competitor at the beginning of the rally's final day, Bates and McCarthy were running to a conservative strategy with victory in sight when a puncture brought their championship hopes undone.

"We were happy with our pace, and had built a healthy lead going into the last day when a stray rock caused the front right tyre to explode," Harry said.

"Changing it lost us a lot of time, compounded by the fact the shredded tyre split the brake line, so we had no brakes to finish the long (30km) stage, and ultimately lost five minutes," he said.

Despite the final day drama, the team's third place Rally Australia finish meant they took third in the title race with just eight points covering the top three ARC places.

Rally Australia centres on Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales north coast with 23 competitive stages covering a mix of shire roads and private trails, from the Woolgoolga hinterland to the north and as far south as Bowraville and Nambucca Heads.

The event combines international entrants from the World Rally Championship (WRC) with ARC competition, and Bates was excited to mix it with the best drivers on the planet, including now four-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier.

"Competing with the WRC field this weekend was very exciting. My ultimate goal is to step up and compete at the top level, so to mix it with my heroes was special," Harry said.

"Obviously, we're bitterly disappointed to miss the win this weekend, but we've learned a lot this year, and running so consistently at the front of the field has been amazing; we're full of optimism for 2017," he said.

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