Tense finish as history is made in ARCMonday, 21 November 2016
Leading into the final round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship, which was also the last round of the Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship (ARC), there was just six points separating the top three in the ARC standings – of those, the fastest to finish Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the Coffs Coast would win the championship.
In the closest finish in the championship’s history, tensions were at an all time high with confusion, speculation and conjecture as the winner was not clearly determined despite the dust settling long after last stage of the rally was over.
Two West Australians were in the mix for top spot of the ARC podium, namely Bill Hayes, Subaru do co-driver to Molly Taylor, and Ben Searcy, co-driver to Simon Evans. Their fate was in the hands of the stewards who gave a time penalty to Mark Pedder for a late check in at time control on the penultimate stage. The outcome of the penalty would change the championship result.
Molly Taylor & Bill Hayes in their winning Subaru WRX STI. Photos: Subaru Australia
In a history making event, the one-minute time penalty was not overturned and the winner of the championship was awarded to Subaru do Molly Taylor and Bill Hayes – the first female to win the ARC and also the first championship win for Bill Hayes who has finished co-driver runner up four times.
Had the time penalty been overturned, the championship winner would have been Simon Evans and co-driver Ben Searcy.
Bill Hayes said it was the craziest rally he had ever experienced.
“It was the craziest rally ever – mad and stressful. It’s the way it goes I guess, sometimes decisions are favourable and sometimes they aren’t,” Hayes said.
“We knew we had to beat Mark Pedder but we weren’t 100 per cent certain what the result of the penalty was going to be – whether Mark would get a one minute or ten second penalty – we were given that information just minutes before we started the final stage. We pushed hard in the last stage wanting to give ourselves the best chance possible.
“It wasn’t until 9pm that we were told with absolute certainty that we’d won the championship – I have a bit of a sore head this morning,” Hayes said.
“Despite that end-of-rally stress, we had a good weekend. It was a bit testing with minor issues that we had to babysit in the long stages, which probably didn’t show the full potential of how Molly was going. The main concern was overheating of the car. Because the car has separate radiator for the heater, we had to turn it on to keep the engine as cool as possible, which dropped some power and made the cabin temperature around 65 degrees. The long 50 kilometre Numbucca stage on Saturday was tough – we each consumed at least eight litres of fluid that day.”
In the end, Taylor and Hayes finished on top of the ARC table, beating Evans and Searcy by just two points. The win adds to Subaru Australia’s victories that include 10 consecutive ARC titles from 1996 to 2005 before the team withdrew from domestic rallying, re-emerging this year under the Subaru do Motorsport banner.
Hayes and Taylor were on their way to the WRC gala dinner tonight in Sydney.
Simon Evans & Ben Searcy at Kennards Hire Rally Australia Photos: Australian Rally Championship
Four-time Australian champion Simon Evans with his WA co-driver Ben Searcy were also in the ARC title fight with Harry Bates and John McCarthy, but both were plagued with punctures over the three-day event.
Pedder finished Rally Australia in second place driving a Peugeot 208 Maxi, 39.3 seconds behind Taylor. Bates came third in a Toyota Corolla S2000.
WA driver Brad Markovic scored himself a trophy for third fastest Australian. He finished 15th overall in the WRC competition and sixth in the ARC section.
Despite a migraine that affected his vision and concentration, Markovic claimed his first ever ARC stage win in front of a big crowd at the Destination NSW Super Special Stage.
“It’s such a great way to finish the year,” Markovic said.
Brad Markovic & Glenn MacNeall enjoying Kennards hire Rally Australia. Photos: John Doutch
Winner of the 2016 WA State Rally Championship Dylan King said he had some mechanical dramas during Rally Australia.
“On Friday, I showed bit of pace finishing stages in the top four. Coming into SS6 the centre diff starting shorting out and I had to do the afternoon loop with no centre diff and I lost a lot of time. After that, we used weekend as learning experience for next year.
“It was a big experience for me and I enjoyed every second of it. My aim at the beginning was to finish our first WRC event, and I’m really proud of have done that, despite the mechanical issues,” King said.
King said he is aiming to compete at Rally Australia again next year and also do a few select ARC events, naming Melbourne and the Quit Forest Rally as the first two before deciding on others.
Final results, Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship (Rd 5 of 5):
- Molly Taylor/Bill Hayes, Subaru Impreza RX STi, 3:08:06.5
- Mark Pedder/Dale Moscatt, Peugeot 208 Maxi, + 39.3
- Harry Bates/John McCarthy, Toyota Corolla S2000, + 1:46.7
- Mick Patton/Bernie Webb, Mitsubishi Evo X, +2:52.5
- Simon Evans/Ben Searcy, Subaru Impreza WRX, +0:31.6
- Brad Markovic/Glenn Macneall, Subaru Impreza WRX Sti, +06:17.5
- Dylan King/Daymon Nicoli, Subaru Impreza WRX Sti, +15:52.6
Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship driver standings (final):
Molly Taylor 329 points
Simon Evans 327
Harry Bates 321
Main Photo: Subaru Australia