Lewis Bates takes Gippsland lead after dramatic day

The opening day of The Middle of Everywhere Gippsland Rally has provided plenty of chaos, as Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia’s Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin lead the rally after eight stages.

Sitting one and half minutes behind Bates and McLoughlin in second place aboard a Subaru WRX are Max McRae and Mac Kierans, who also lead the White Wolf Constructions Production Cup. Troy Dowel and Bernie Webb sees them in third, with the Victorian driver’s position all the more impressive despite an upset stomach.

In what has been a day of high attrition, a number of high profile RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) crews have had issues across the day, the most notable being Harry Bates and John McCarthy aboard the Toyota GR Yaris AP4.

Lewis Bates on a charge on SS8 – Photo: Nishimachi.com.au

The championship leaders were dominating the field, and held a lead of more than one and half minutes, until a broken prop shaft on stage six saw their day end early and out of the running endurance rally.

Harry Bates’ first DNF since 2018 allowed Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teammates Lewis and McLoughlin to move to the top of the time sheets at the conclusion of day one.

“We have had a relatively problem free day, it’s been a very enjoyable afternoon,” Bates said.

“We just focussed on stage by stage and our own rally, it was tough seeing Harry and John stopped this afternoon and it was hard to concentrate for the next couple of Kilometres after, but we have to take advantage of that and yeah we are sitting in a pretty good position this afternoon.

“The rally is not over, we still have very tricky stages tomorrow. We will study the reccy videos tonight and see what we can do but we have a one minute and 30 second lead in hand, but we want to keep pushing up and keep the rhythm up so we will do our best tomorrow.

“There is added pressure we want to get a good result for the team they’ve all worked really hard but at the end of the day we just have to keep focussing on our event and sort of put that aside and try and get a nice rhythm tomorrow.”

While Lewis is on track for his first ARC victory holding a comfortable lead, Sunday is set up for an exciting battle for second with just eight seconds separating McRae, Dowel and Scott Pedder.

Troy Dowel – Photo: nishimachi.com.au

It’s been a productive day for both McRae and Pedder, with the former leading the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup over Jamie and Bradley Luff, while Mitsubishi Evo pilots Ronald Bustard and Larissa Bigger sit third in Production Cup.

As for Pedder, he currently sits on top of the Shamrock Haulage ARC 2WD Cup standings, with Glendun ARC Junior Cup leaders Ryan Williams and Brad Jones in second place more than three minutes behind. South Australians Guy Tyler and Zayne Admiraal sit in third for the class.

Leading the way in the Classic Cup are Brendan Reeves and Kate Catford – the Datsun P510 pilots sitting eighth overall.

Click here to view full results.

Just five stages remain in the event, with the action resuming at 10:43am AEST.

Author: Michael Finger

Hi, I’m Michael and I’m a freelance photojournalist. I live in Montmorency, in the north eastern suburbs of Melbourne and I offer a range of photography services to help you achieve the results you’re after.