It’s crunch time in the 2018 CAMS Australian Rally Championship (ARC) with contenders lining up for the fifth and penultimate round at the BOTT Adelaide Hills Rally in South Australia this weekend.
With just two rounds remaining and a maximum of 182 points up for grabs, at least five teams remain in mathematical contention for the 2018 title.
Three-time Australian Rally Champion Eli Evans and co-driver Ben Searcy hold a commanding lead, with a 51-point buffer to their nearest rival, Contel Communications’ Steve Glenney.
While it is possible for Evans and Searcy to claim the title this weekend, the pair will keep their focus on the event at hand.
“If we can wrap it up this weekend, mathematically it’s possible, but at Coffs Harbour there are more points available than at any other round due to it being a three day event,” said Evans, who will campaign the Skoda Fabia R5 again in SA.
“Mathematically we could win it here but I believe it’s unlikely. The only way that is possible is if the other competitors have some major issues, which can happen, but it’s out of my hands.
“I’ve got to go out there and drive the best I can. If we win both days and we win the event, that’s our aim, and if we happen to win the Championship and accumulate enough points then I think that is a pretty good achievement as well.”
Glenney, with co-driver Andy Sarandis, will also be pushing championship scenarios to the back of his mind.
“I don’t really look at it,” he said.
“I look at doing well on each stage, corner by corner, stage by stage. We obviously have a car that is struggling to keep up with the pace of that thing [the Skoda], when he [Eli] turns it on we can’t keep in touch, so we’ll just do our own thing.
“We knew we were underdogs this year, it was more about finishing second and seeing what the other guys do so we’ll just keep doing that and the best part about it is we are annoying them, they wish we were a bit slower than what we are but we not, so we are still in the hunt and we’ll see what we can do.”
Glenney, who grew up in Wistow, just 10 kilometres from the Service Park at Mount Barker, but now resides in Tasmania, is looking forward competing on some of Australia’s most renowned rally stages in the Subaru Impreza WRX STi.
“Mawsons Row is the road that many of us regard as probably the most enjoyable in the country,” Glenney explained.
“It’s just constantly linking corners, left, right, left, right so you’re sideways the whole time, just linking corners together on a nice, consistent, smooth, semi-slippery surface. And it’s in amongst houses so people have bonfires and parties and they invite people up… it’s a bit like Europe where people line the stage, that’s what it was like back 10 years ago when we ran it anyway.
“We’ve got the classic forestry stuff in Mount Crawford and some new stuff which I haven’t driven on before. But certainly Mawsons Row is the cracker that we are all looking forward to.”
Toyota Genuine Parts’ Harry Bates and John McCarthy will return to SA twelve months after the Yaris AP4’s ill-fated debut at the event last year. The Neal Bates Motorsport Team struggled with the newly-built Yaris at the 2017 event, mechanical issues limiting the team to completing just one special stage of the two-day event.
“We set out to debut the car last year and that all didn’t go to plan which was pretty soul destroying because this time last year we were in a really good championship position,” Bates said.
“I guess at that point we were clear favourites to go on a take out the championship but in the last 12 months we have come a long way with the Yaris. It’s gone from being a thing that we’d run off the floor just to get here in time to now being something that is comparable to a Skoda R5 car at times so when you look at it that way it is something to be proud of.
“There has definitely been times where we have matched the Skoda…. at times we have been there or there abouts but putting it together for a whole rally we just haven’t quite mastered that yet.”
Bates is hoping that his circuit racing stint at Sandown in a Toyota 86 last weekend will help him in Friday night’s 1.7 kilometre Super Special Stage match-race at The Bend Motorsport Park.
“I’m hoping that some of the circuit racing I was doing on the weekend may help,” laughed Bates.
“I”m really looking forward to having a go at a proper super special, it’s something I haven’t done before [side-by-side racing]… it will be really fun.”
He is also keen to experience some of the traditional South Australian stages.
“Some of the roads we are doing are quite renowned; old classic South Australian stages that Dad [Neal Bates] has done in the past and other people as well, I’m sure Eli and Steve have got good memories of competing on them in the past.
“I’m really looking forward to having a go at them – from all the footage I’ve seen of them they are very flowing and fast just sort of your classic, Australian style stage which I think every competitor enjoys.”
In ARC2, Glenney will be out to cement his spot in the winner-takes-all final at Kennards Hire Rally Australia while Kevin Raedel will need to have a strong event in his Ford Falcon XR6 to displace any of the top five in the ARC2 points standings.
The BOTT Adelaide Hills Rally will also host the final round of the MRF Tyres South Australian Rally Championship, where Peter Schey and Kate Catford will be hoping to wrap up the title but will face a spirited challenge from second placed Zayne Admiraal and Matthew Heywood.
Rally action starts on Friday at 6pm with the Super Special Stage at The Bend Motorsport Park. Australia’s best rally drivers will race side-by-side on the brand new Stadium Circuit, completing two passes of the 1.7 kilometre stage. Tickets for the Super Special Stage are available here.
Saturday’s six special stages will take rally crews to the south-east of Adelaide, covering 110 competitive kilometres while Sunday’s nine special stages will visit the area to the north-east of Adelaide, around Mount Crawford, offering 117 competitive kilometres.
Sunday afternoon offers spectating with a touch of luxury, with the choice of two winery locations, Pike & Joyce Wines or Anderson Hill Winery, both located on the exciting Mawsons Road stage. The spectator experience will kick off at 12pm with guests enjoying good food, wines and spectacular rally action. Bookings are essential, with tickets available for Anderson Hill Winery and Pike & Joyce Wines. The BOTT Adelaide Hills Rally Spectator Guide is available here.
The penultimate round of the 2018 ARC will conclude with a podium presentation at the Mount Barker Service Park at 5:30pm.