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In just over two weeks the Make Smoking History Forest Rally (Forest Rally) will roar to life, April 27 -29, and the strength of entries has organisers tipping it will be one of the most hotly contested events in recent years. A mix of former champions, familiar faces and young guns will take to the forest roads through Nannup and race the electric Trade Hire Busselton Super Special Stage around the Busselton foreshore with 59 crews contesting the Forest Rally. The event is the second round of the CAMS Australian Rally Championship (ARC) and CAMS Onslow Contracting WA Rally Championship (WARC). Many of the former champions are paired with new co-drivers for 2018 and/or behind the wheels of new generation cars that look and sound the business and are sure to excite fans out in the forest. Defending Forest Rally Champion Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcom Read are one of the few leading crews who will be coming into the event in the same vehicle as 2017, and will be hoping this will give them the edge for Taylor to take back-to-back victories. "There is definitely more that we need to do in terms of preparation for the event this year," Taylor said. "Malcolm and I need to learn more about each other and he will need some time to get up to speed on the event, but once the rally starts I believe we will be able to focus on the job at hand and just take the event a stage at a time," she continued.
Eli Evans Eureka Rally

Eli Evans and his Mini are getting faster with every event they contest. Photo: Nathan Hubble

For the second time in two years Harry Bates (and co-driver John McCarthy) comes into the Forest Rally leading the ARC competition and for the first time in Western Australia he will be joined by his younger brother Lewis Bates (and Dale Moscatt). Both brothers will be hoping to add their name to the winner’s trophy which has been won six times by their father Neal. “I feel like I have always done really well at the Forest Rally but it’s also been an event where the win has eluded me and this year I’ll be running first car on the road there for the first time which will definitely be a challenge,” Harry Bates said. “It’s one of my favourite events and while it’s difficult to prepare the car completely for the unique surface in Nannup the Toyota Yaris should be reasonably suited to the roads so I am just looking forward to getting over there and giving it my best shot,” he continued. In a change since the opening round Adrian Coppin will be debuting a Skoda Fabia R5 at the Forest Rally. It will be a historic moment for the ARC as it’s the first time an R5 spec rally car has lined up in competition on Australian shores. "I tested the Skoda Fabia R5 over in Western Australia yesterday and it was amazing. It is by far the best car I’ve even driven and I felt comfortable straight away so I definitely think we now have the package to be able to beat Harry (Bates),” Coppin said. Eli Evans will be a steering his lightweight Mini Cooper AP4 for the first time on the roads of Busselton and Nannup and will also be joined by experienced co-driver Ben Searcy following the retirement of his long-time co-driving partner Glen Weston at the end of the 2017 season.
Brad Markovic

Brad Markovic will be one of the top hopes for a WA podium finish. Photo: CMR Photographic

In a further boost to the competition at the top of the field, former ARC and Rallycross round winner and multiple Targa Tasmania champion, Steve Glenney will be tackling the Busselton and Nannup roads as a driver for the first time in a decade. Also returning to the ARC competition for this round is seven time event Champion Ross Dunkerton. Brad Markovic and Toni Feaver lead the ARC2 class following a strong return to the competition in Victoria after back surgery forced Markovic out of the Championship in 2017. The pair will face tough competition from 2009 Forest Rally Champion Glen Raymond who is returning to the ARC in 2018. Defending Australian 2WD Rally Champions Adam Kaplan and Aleshia Penney will get behind the wheel of a locally prepared Nissan 370Z for the first time at the Forest Rally and will be looking to extend their 2WD lead despite the dramatic change. More than 30 crews will contest the CAMS Onslow Contracting WA Rally Championship with the field led by current series leaders John O’Dowd/Tom Wilde following a tight battle with Stephen Oxley/Michael Wood at the opening round last month. Adding to the spectacle will be the WA Clubman Masters and WA Clubman Cup categories, arguably the best entry level rally championship in Australia. The Clubman Cup is a one day event and runs over the same forest stages as the main competition in Nannup on Saturday. Carl and Tracey Rattenbury come into the Forest Rally leading the Clubman Masters with Stephen Vass/Ashley Burton leading the Clubman Cup after taking Round One honours by only seconds over Graeme and Kathy Miles.
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