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Subaru do Motorsport team is in a super-tight contest for leadership of the CAMS Australian Rally Championship 2017, following a superb second place on Leg Two of the National Capital Rally, ACT.

Molly Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes, in the Production Rally Car (PRC) class All-Wheel Drive WRX STI, fought a war of attrition as wet morning weather played a key factor close to the national capital.

While Championship points have yet to be announced, Nathan Quinn, the leader going into the Canberra event, will likely have forfeited top place to either Harry Bates or Molly Taylor, after losing valuable time with a puncture on a morning stage, relegating him to 4th in the rally at the day’s end.

With just six stages to contest on Leg Two, the top four drivers were instantly vying for honours in the mid-season event.

Heavy morning showers over the demanding technical stages added an extra ingredient of uncertainty, with some of the soft clay sections contributing to car damage, as skids and collisions with trees, embankments and ditches shredded tyres and put several competitors into limp home mode, necessitating roadside repairs.

The day began in encouraging fashion with a third place for Subaru do on SS9, sufficient to elevate the team to second overall, behind Harry Bates’ Toyota. They were aided by a puncture for overnight second-place holder Quinn, who finished 11th on stage and surrendered his lead over Taylor.

A consistent third for Subaru do on SS10 maintained the position.

A flat tyre for Taylor and Hayes on the day’s equal longest stage, the 30.4 kilometre SS11 Cottage 5 Ways I, cost valuable seconds in the podium quest, but fortunately failed to dent the team’s second overall.

With mechanical issues on SS11 apparently ending Eli Evans’ weekend prematurely in his new Mini Cooper, confidence was high for Subaru do going into the final three stages after lunchtime service.

Then news that the day’s penultimate stage, the repeat SS13 East West II, had been cancelled due to a flooded crossing, meant it was only necessary for Taylor and Hayes to keep the car tidy on the final run, a repeat of the long distance Cottage 5 Ways.

Finishing third on stage, it was enough to guarantee second place in the rally – and a second consecutive return to the podium after victory in last month’s event in Western Australia.

Molly said: “The morning showers made it a bit of a lottery and we could have done without the puncture on SS11, but it was great to keep a hold of overall second going into the afternoon stages.

“Again we’ve focused on consistency and this rally has been a great example of that, despite some challenges.

“For a little while yesterday afternoon we weren’t certain of our placing because of a timing discrepancy. But that proved not to be a problem and to be able to build on overnight third to secure second overall is a big reward for us.

“We’re very happy to be where we are, passing the season mid-point, and can go into the break feeling confident about South Australia and Coffs Harbour in a few months time.”

1. Bates/McCarthy, Toyota Corolla S2000, 2:21:16.5
2. Taylor/Hayes, Subaru WRX STI, 2:22:40.2, +1:23.7
3. Patton/Webb, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, 2:25:46.8, +4:30.3

- Team release

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