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While speaking to the Toyota Gazoo Australia crews at the official launch in Sydney, RSM’s Neil Blackbourn asked a question that had been on his mind for a while – how different is it to set-up a rally car now than it was in years gone by? * * * * * With two generations of Toyota family rallying in front of me, I took the opportunity to find out. I first asked Lewis Bates what he thought the differences between he and Harry would be. “I don’t really know as we haven’t been in the same car at the same time yet,” Lewis explained. “But I do know Harry and I have similar driving styles. Dad’s different, but he learnt a different type of car (Neal started in a Datsun 1600).

Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia was launched on Sydney Harbour. Photo: Neil Blackbourn

“It will be interesting to see how similar we drive the Yaris next year, but in the past we have had similar set-ups. Having learnt firstly in front drive cars means we use the front end more than dad does.” Dad, Neal Bates, agrees. “The sport has changed over the years, and the cars are driven differently to make them more efficient, and they are definitely still sideways, but it is definitely before the corner these days rather than on the exit,” Neal explained. “It is hard to know about this Yaris though, as I have not done much in it as we have been so incredibly busy that there has only been time for Harry to drive it. “I’d like to understand the car more, but that will hopefully come in the off-season.” Some off season! As well as the rally program, Neal Bates Motorsport also still has the Toyota 86 racing series on the books. Will this change with the new rally program? “No, not really,” reveals Neal. “We still have both jobs to do and it just means we need to get hold of the resources to do both as well as we can.”

Jari-Matti Latvala ensure nobody jumps the start! Photo: Neil Blackbourn

As well as revealing the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia team in Sydney, there was some entertainment in the form of WRC drivers and co-drivers versus ARC drivers and co-drivers in a radio controlled car race on a purpose built track. Some showed skills and some showed that rules could be bent a little in the way cars were placed back on the track by the nominated ‘assistants’. This included corner cutting by rolling your car over, and having your assistant ‘accidentally’ missing a few corners by placing the car in the way of the other car you were racing! This racing also revealed that, in general, co-drivers were more cautious, with the exception of Janne Ferm. Esapekka Lappi’s co-driver managed to fly his Yaris WRC model straight off one end of the track, and out the only entrance/exit gate, surprising the staff standing there with a flying radio-controlled car barrelling towards them!

Esapekka Lappi guides his remote control Yaris around the course. Photo: Neil Blackbourn

But one driver couldn’t let the jump starts that had become a regular feature happen again. Jari-Matti Latvala made sure no-one could jump the start by getting down on the track and making his arm a sort of motocross start gate, not letting the cars go until the start signal had been given. All in all, it was a great morning, with a lot of fun and a lot learned. And it was great to catch up again with some old friends. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia gets on with its two car effort in 2019.

Related news:

https://rallysportmag.com/ostbergs-unbeaten-citroen-record-but-still-no-2019-drive/ https://rallysportmag.com/double-trouble-toyota-ramps-up-arc-commitment-for-2019/
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