PHOTO: From left, Nathan Quinn, Brendan Reeves, Mike Young, Molly Taylor and Harry Bates are stepping up the WRC at Rally Australia (Bruce Thomas pic)
WHEN Kennards Hire Rally Australia comes to the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 16-19 November, drivers from Australia and New Zealand will be striving to make their mark alongside the big stars in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Five of the region’s fastest young talents will step up to the WRC challenge, not expecting to win outright but aiming to compete in the company of the world’s best, benchmark their ability and enjoy the chance to be part of a world championship event in their own backyard.
Australians Harry Bates, Molly Taylor, Brendan Reeves and Nathan Quinn and New Zealander Mike Young confirmed their entry plans when they attended the official launch of Kennards Hire Rally Australia at Nana Glen, near Coffs Harbour, today.
Crews from Down Under represented 19 WRC entries last year and event organisers are encouraging as many as possible to line up again.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for regional competitors. It’s a full FIA World Championship event, but anyone who is appropriately licensed and has an eligible car can enter. That’s not something you can do in many other motorsport disciplines,” said Rally Australia’s sporting chief, Clerk of Course Wayne Kenny.
“What young driver wouldn’t dream of competing in a grand prix or at Bathurst? Rally Australia will make it possible for these five young drivers and many others to live their dreams.
“They are proof there’s enormous talent in rallying in Australia and New Zealand. Harry, Molly, Brendan, Mike and Nathan are all at different stages in their WRC journeys, but hopefully the experience at Rally Australia will turbo-charge their paths.”
HARRY BATES, 22 (ACT): Current points leader in the CAMS Australian Rally Championship, Harry has won two ARC heats this year in his current Toyota Corolla S2000, but will complete the season at the wheel of a new Toyota Yaris AP4 car built at his father’s Neal Bates Motorsport workshop in Canberra. Apart from testing a WRC2 car recently in South America, Harry is yet to have any international experience, but he’s regarded as one of Australia’s brightest rally prospects. This will be his second Rally Australia.
NATHAN QUINN, 31 (NSW): Coffs Harbour-based Nathan is the city’s home-town hero, with a genuinely strong following. He’s contested every East Coast Rally Australia, all except 2013 in his own Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. In 2013 he drove an Italian-run Mini John Cooper Works and finished an outstanding eighth outright. He also became a fan favourite for his colourful stage-end interviews. Nathan is widely experienced in the Asia Pacific, China and Malaysia championships and at Rally Australia 2016 clinched the NSW title.
BRENDAN REEVES, 29 (VIC): Brendan is one of Australia’s busiest and most successful internationals. Most recently he beat WRC driver Hayden Paddon to victory in a round of the New Zealand championship. He spent the 2011-12 seasons in the WRC Academy series after winning the Asia Pacific qualifier and in 2013 won the Rally America 2WD championship with five wins from five starts. Brendan is furthering his WRC ambitions by working on the gravel notes crew for Paddon in the Hyundai Motorsport factory team.
MOLLY TAYLOR, 28 (NSW): Molly wrote history last year as the first woman to win the Australian Rally Championship; currently only three points behind Harry, she’s aiming to do it again this year. Daughter of four-time champion co-driver Coral Taylor, Molly put nine years’ hard work in European rallying into her “overnight” success, driving a variety of cars and winning the European and British Ladies Championships. Now she’s not only a professional rally driver, but also a media personality, public speaker and role model for sportswomen.
MIKE YOUNG, 24 (NZ): Mike started rallying at age 18 in 2011 and competed in Japan and Malaysia in his first season. He’s been with the privateer Japanese Cusco team since 2012, winning the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship Asia Cup in 2013 and finishing second in the 2014 and 2015 driver championships. Quick and well-hardened in competition against Skoda and Proton factory-backed rivals, Young is taking the next step with his WRC debut in a Citroen DS3 at Kennards Hire Rally Australia.