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Harry Bates is currently holed-up in his parents' house in Canberra with six others, having daily table tennis tournaments with his brother, Lewis, and home-schooling his step-son. It's hardly the way the Australian Rally Champion planned to be spending the first part of 2020, but like everyone else, he's at the mercy of Coronavirus. RallySport Magazine caught up with Harry to see how he was handling the lockdown, what he was doing, and when he thinks he might be rallying again. RSM: Where are you holed up during this lockdown? Harry Bates: I’m in Canberra. I travelled down here with my partner Hayley, and my step-son, Harry. We’ve been staying in my parents house for two weeks now. More space than our townhouse in Sydney, and there are mountain bike trails out the back gate which helps. RSM: Who's in the house with you? HB: We decided not to kick Mum and Dad out of their own house, so they’re still here. Lewis and his partner Cassie are also here, along with Hayley, Harry and I. Lucky we all get along. RSM: What are you doing to keep amused during these strange times? HB: Bits and pieces. I wasn’t happy with where my fitness was at to start the 2020 rally season. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be leading in to the Netier National Capital Rally, so this has been a good opportunity to get stuck in to some training. We have table tennis set up at Mum and Dad’s place, so Lewis and I have been having a table tennis tournament almost every night. I’ve been cooking a lot, which is a bit counter productive to the training! Other than that, home-schooling Harry, who is 6-years old, is definitely a part of the day. I have a newfound respect for teachers, as I’m sure many parents do. And also working on a website for Neal Bates Motorsport, which I had been wanting to do for a while. I think it would be cool for people to have a hub to visit online, to see some detailed shots of the Yaris AP4, and to learn more about the people involved in our team.

Harry Bates has been mountain biking around Canberra to keep his fitness up. Photo: Harry Bates

RSM: Do you have a simulator close by to keep you entertained? HB: No, we don’t! I have spent a little bit of time on simulators, but it just hasn’t been something that has interested me overly. Just before Christmas, I caught up with Kevin Abbring in Holland for a few days, and he has an incredible simulator. I must have spent 20 hours on it in the space of a few days, because I was trying to prepare to drive the new Toyota GR Yaris at Estoril in Portugal later that week, which was a track that I hadn’t been to. It definitely helped with that. Lewis has bought a PS4, and we have both had a few runs on Dirt Rally 2.0, but I am personally not very attuned to computer games, so I have been struggling. RSM: Are there any cars and tools there for you to play with? HB: I’ve had a Celica GT-Four road car project on the go, and it has actually been completed within the last week or so, which is exciting. It’s just a bit of a tidy up/restoration to standard and it has come up really well, so I’m looking forward to taking it for a road trip somewhere and sharing some pictures of it. It’s a Celica GT-Four ST185 Carlos Sainz edition. RSM: What are you missing most about not being able to get out and about? HB: Competing in rallies for one. I definitely live for it. Due to Australia’s terrible summer with bushfires, and now COVID-19, we haven’t done a rally since September when we won our first ARC. To me that feels like a very long time! The other thing I’m missing is tennis. Our tennis club closed their doors a couple of weeks ago, and Lewis and I would usually play a few times a week. But in all honesty it’s not that bad. I’m usually travelling away at least once a week, so spending time with family has been really nice, and we all have so many resources now to keep us going when we are stuck at home. RSM: What are the three most used apps on your phone at the moment? HB: I think it would be WhatsApp, emails and maybe Facebook. I really haven’t been spending too much time on social media so far - I figure the last thing people want to see is just another amateur training and cooking at home! I plan on sharing some more cool onboards over the next few weeks, to cater for the rally enthusiasts. RSM: Do you think we'll be back rallying before the end of the year? HB: I’m probably not the right person to comment. I think Australia is in a good position in terms of this virus, so I’d like to think we can start getting back to running events before the end of the year. But there are several other priorities over and above rallying - the public’s health and safety, for one. I do believe a condensed ARC could be very popular and very competitive. With the lack of international competition at the moment (not just in rallying of course, but in all sports), I think we have a good opportunity to gain extra following for our sport domestically. People will be very keen to follow something by the time we go rallying again. I will accept any rallying we can do in 2020 with open arms!
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