The exciting Australian Rally Championship came to town again on 13-15 October 2023 for the South Australian Round, the Adelaide Hills Rally which uses stages stretching from Meadows north east to Eden Valley/Cambrai for the iconic Pine Hut Road stage and south to The Bend Motorsport Park near Tailem Bend (the latter not in the Adelaide Hills), where Rally Q would be. Teams compete in Australian Rally Championship (ARC), South Australian Rally Championship (SARC) and Regularity classes with the vast majority of the entrants competing in the ARC (some also in SARC). The rivalry between brothers Harry and Lewis Bates (sons of legendary rally driver Neil Bates) in identical Toyota GR Yaris AP4’s would be a highlight but they would face some competition from Eddie Maguire/Brakey and Gonzalez/Nicoli (both in Skoda Fabia R5s), Alex Rullo/Steve Glenney and Peter Rullo/Marquet (both in Hyundai i20 Rally 2s), Anear/Read and Dowel/Webb (both in Ford Fiesta Mk2s), Jamie Luff/Brad Luff (Darth Vader-like Toyota GR Yaris AP4) and Subaru WRX STi’s of Reading/Young (GC8 type) and Molly Taylor (daughter of Coral Taylor co-driving for Harry Bates)/Andy Sarandis (new shape). Heading the SARC contingent was Declan Dywer/Zoe Dwyer (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO6) and Dave McDonough/Steve Hiser (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO6) with some Subaru WRX STis and Molly Spalding’s Subaru Impreza RS nipping at their heels. Regularity class had only 3 entrants.
The first two stages were run on the entire GT tarmac circuit of the motorsport park. The first in daylight and the second in the dark with spotlights needed. Drivers would need to manage the car’s blocky tread patterned tyres on the smooth surface.
Heat 1 (Friday/Saturday) – Harry Bates would take out the two Friday tarmac stages, before Lewis Bates would strike back on Saturday with the 1st and 2nd gravel stages, SS3 Callington Back 1 and SS4 The Glen 1. Harry Bates would post the fastest time again on SS5 Back Callington 2 and continued with fastest stages times from there on until SS12 Old Bull Creek 2 and then the first of the Stadium super special stages where Lewis would beat him both times. Maguire in the Skoda Fabia would be the best of the rest, and included 2nd fastest stage times on SS4 The Glen 2, SS5 Back Callington 2 and SS11 Meadows 2. Dowel (Ford Fiesta Rally 2) would be consistent achieving 4th fastest on SS3, SS4, SS7, SS9 Old Bull Creek 1, SS11 Meadows 2 with a 3rd fastest on SS8 Meadows 1. Luke Anear would take out SS14 Stadium SSS2 on the short rallycross track (without watersplash this year). Heat 1 honours went to Harry Bates/Coral Taylor edging out Lewis Bates by 16.8secs after 14 stages. Eddie Maguire, Luke Anear, Alex Rullo and Molly Taylor in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th respectively would all be over a behind the leading pair. Molly Taylor/Andy Sarandis in the much larger Subaru car would have the consolation of Production (AUS) honours over Steve Maguire/Ben Searcy (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX) by 22.3secs with Bodie Reading/Mark Young in the loud Subaru GC8 WRX STi a further 2mins 38secs behind. Subarus featured heavily in the sub category with 3rd, and then 5th-11th places.
Heat 2 (Sunday) – The rally would be run on the eastern edge of the Adelaide Hills, with the iconic Pine Hut Road stage famous from Festival State Rally days), The Gap stage with a run through the narrow picturesque Rathjens Gap and Kubenk stage with a large drop down a hillside and Talbots stage. The rally would finish off with a short North “Power Stage” at the north end of The Bend Motorsport complex. Harry Bates would once again dominate, getting fastest times on 9 of the 11 stages. On SS20 Mid Murray Motorplex, a short 3.71km stage, Alex Rullo, Luke Anear and Troy Dowel would however get 1st, 2nd and 3rd fastest times respectively keeping out both of the Bates boys. Harry Bates would receive a 25sec penalty for arriving 5mins late at a time control around SS22 dropping him down the leaderboard in the overall standings. Luke Anear would surprise both the Bates boys taking out the 2nd run through Kubenk. Lewis Bates would grab 2nd with Alex Rullo to pick up 3rd fastest. With the penalty, this resulted in Lewis Bates/Anthony McLoughlin (Toyota GR Yaris) having Heat 2 honours (and their 2nd ARC win of the season) ahead of Eddie Maguire/Zak Brakey (Skoda Fabia R5) by 18.1secs. Third place went to Alex Rullo/Steve Glenney only a mere 1.5secs behind them. To say the overall final results were tight would be an understatement! Fourth place to Luke Anear/Malcolm Read was only 0.7secs further back and then Harry Bates in 5th place 0.9secs behind Anear. Sixth was Jamie Luff/Brad Luff in the 3rd Toyota GR Yaris AP4. In Production sub category Molly Taylor/Andy Sarandis (Subaru WRX STi) would once again win over Steve Maguire/Ben Searcy (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX), this time by only 12.7secs. Third was the Ford Fiesta Rally3 of Gandewa Dalbo/Brad Jones.
Heat 2 saw several retirements. Unfortunately Bodie Reading and Mark Young would slide wide on a ford entering Rathjens Gap and their Subaru WRX STi would roll several times, but the crew were OK but the rollcage was too damaged for the car to continue. Molly Spalding’s Subaru RS Impreza would not continue with a broken strut. Kelly Thomas and S. Esterbauer would have an accident in their Subaru WRX on a road transport section. The Mazda RX7 of David Thompson and Matthew Sanders retired, and the Ford Fiesta ST of Kamil Potoczny and Paul Knopka (usually behind the wheel) was out with a broken gearbox.
Heat 1 – Multiple SARC winner Declan Dwyer teamed up with daughter Zoe would dominate Heat 1, winning over 2nd placed Dave McDonough/Steve Hiser (both in Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X1s) by a margin of 2mins 36secs! Sam Thomas/Troy Crouch (Subaru WRX) were a further 12.6secs back for 3rd. Bradley Clements/Naomi Tillett (Subaru WRX) were 4th followed by Molly Spalding/Matt Dillon in their Subaru RS Impreza.
Heat 2 – Declan Dwyer would once again have the better of Dave McDonough but once by 7.8secs after 11 stages! Bradley Clements and Naomi Tillett got themselves onto the 3rd spot on the podium. Molly Spalding only missed on 3rd by 2.1secs! Darren Crozier and Michelle Crozier (Subaru WRX STi N12) took out 5th fastest.
Heat 1 win went to Emma and Ross Smith in their Mitsubishi Magna with less penalty points than Stephen Barker and David Rudham (Toyota Hilux farm ute!) followed by Graham Wallis and Richard Davies (Peugeot 505). Heat 2 honours saw Stephen Barker and David Rudham bring home their Hilux with 100 penalty points to 2nd placed Graham Wallis and Richard Davies with 180 points. Unfortunately Emma and Ross Smith had to nurse their Magna home on the last stage, losing a lot of time. Overall, Stephen Barker/David Rudham in 1st, Emma and Ross Smith 2nd and Graham Wallis and Richard Davies 3rd.
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FRIDAY – HEAT 1
Pits, and SS1 GT Plus1
SS2 GT Plus2
SATURDAY – HEAT 1
SS4 The Glen 1
SS6 The Glen 2
SS7 Bugle Rangers 1
SS10 Bugle Rangers 2
SS13 Stadium 1
SUNDAY – HEAT 2
SS16 Kubenk 1
SS19 The Gap 1
SS24 Kubenk 2