Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) competitors are gearing up for another epic edition of The Middle of Everywhere Gippsland Rally this week, with plenty at stake in such a vital round for both the drivers and co-drivers’ championships.
This will be the second rendition of the popular rally since it made its grand return to the ARC calendar in 2022 – which also proved a major turning point in the title race that saw Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin claim their maiden ARC Championship trophy.
There is no doubt that the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia duo will have plenty of fond memories when they return to Gippsland in August, with the 2022 round also marking their first ever round win.
Bates and McLoughlin were rewarded for consistent pace throughout the 13-stage event, taking advantage of a rare mechanical issue for teammates Harry Bates and John McCarthy after their Toyota GR Yaris AP4 suffered a broken prop shaft during SS6.
The issue proved costly for Harry and McCarthy as they were looking strong in the opening five stages, holding a lead of more than a minute and a half before Lewis and McLoughlin took control of the remaining Saturday stages in their absence.
While their dominant run of round wins came to an end in Gippsland, Harry and McCarthy would be back behind the wheel for Sunday’s action, winning all five stages including the EROAD Power Stage to salvage 10th place outright.
Despite the recovery from the reigning champions, Lewis and McLoughlin would go on to win the rally in convincing fashion, finishing two and a half minutes ahead of second place runners Troy Dowel and Bernie Webb – a career high finish for the young driver.
Although, an outright second-place finish didn’t come easy for Dowel and Webb, with the duo put under immense pressure from third place getters, Max McRae and Mac Kierans, who also secured a career-high ARC finish.
In the end, Dowel and Webb’s performance in the EROAD Power Stage would be just enough to separate the two crews, taking the position by just two seconds.
Despite missing out on the place, McRae and Kierans wouldn’t walk away empty handed as they dominated the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup – finishing more than two and a half minutes ahead of Jamie and Brad Luff.
The Luffs were another crew to enjoy a career high outright finish with fourth place, mirroring that result in the EROAD Power Stage, while the late Ronnie Bustard and Larisa Biggar ended up in fifth – capping off a career-best finish for all the top five.
The lead Victorian entry, Brendan Reeves and Kate Raymond were impressive throughout with sixth outright, while also claiming the ARC Classic Cup honours as they were the only crew in the class to finish the rally.
Taking out top honours in the ARC 2WD Cup and seventh outright were Guy Tyler and Zayne Admiraal – the South Australians handed the class lead late in the rally when Ryan Williams and Brad Jones crashed out on the penultimate stage.
Ultimately finishing second in the ARC 2WD Cup podium were Dean Ridge and Phillip Bonser, with the duo finishing eighth outright ahead of James Dimmock and Paul Bennett, who rounded out the class podium.
The ARC 2WD Cup wasn’t the only podium for Dimmock and Bennett with the Ford Fiesta drivers also winning the Shamrock Haulage ARC Junior Cup comfortably by almost 10 minutes over Molly Spalding and Douglas Johnson.
This year’s edition of The Middle of Everywhere Gippsland Rally will be the fourth round of a thrilling 2023 Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship season and will take place in the Gippsland region on 25-27 August.
Words by Motorsport Australia.