Lewis Bates gets heirloom for National Capital Rally bid
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Lewis Bates gets heirloom for National Capital Rally bid

Cars are like heirlooms in the Bates family. That's why Lewis Bates has been told to take extra care of a 10-year-old rally machine, especially after watching one go up in flames last year.

The 21-year-old is taking a trip down memory lane this year, using the same car his dad Neal built and raced in a decade ago before being handed down to brother Harry to use.

Rally drivers, Lewis and Harry Bates with dad Neal (centre) at the National Capital Rally launch.

Rally drivers, Lewis and Harry Bates with dad Neal (centre) at the National Capital Rally launch.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

He hopes it will help kickstart his career and follow the same path Harry has walked in recent years. But his confidence was rattled when a race turned to disaster 12 months ago.

Lewis was racing in the Eureka Rally in the front-wheel car Harry used when he was learning to drive in. Lewis got stuck on a dirt mound maybe one metre off the track and couldn't move the car.

"Something underneath caught fire ... we couldn't put it out and it burnt the car to the ground," Lewis said.

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"So I was very pleased to go to the Eureka rally this year problem free and in a new car.

"It was pretty devastating when it happened, but you've got to put it all behind you and move forward. It's part of rally.

"Luckily it was not one of the cars that was built at Neal Bates Motorsport, so it wasn't that sentimental to dad or the family. There's no use thinking about it now.

"Now I'm in this new car that both dad and Harry have raced in ... he hasn't said [don't burn it to the ground], but I'm sure he's thinking it."

The Bates trio and returning star Adrian Coppin were at the launch of the National Capital Rally on Wednesday after the Brindabella Motorsport Club saved it from collapse.

The event made its comeback last year after an absence of eight years and was in danger of collapsing again until organisers secured a $19,000 funding deal from the ACT government and signed IT firm Netier as a major sponsor.

It ensured the race would be kept alive and the courses at Kowen Forest and Tidbinbilla will host the Australian Rally Championship and the the Australian leg of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship on June 1-3.

Officials are also reintroducing a ceremonial start at Garema Place and have secured the event's future until at least the end of 2020.

"I've got really good memories of this event and it feels so quickly that it's coming around again," said Harry Bates.

Harry Bates is attempting to step up to the Asia-Pacific level this year and got his season off to a perfect start with a win at the Eureka Rally in March.

"We're debuting a new car this year, the Toyota Yaris. It's a bit of an angrier machine," Harry said.

Harry Bates at the Eureka Rally last year as part of the Australian Rally Championship.

Harry Bates at the Eureka Rally last year as part of the Australian Rally Championship.

"Hopefully that's a bit more competitive against the international cars. Ideally, in a dream run, we'd be able to take out both titles. But that's a big challenge.

"Dad's like the chief mechanic these days and it's great to have Lewis there pushing me as well. I'm super keen to move my career to an international platform, and competing in my own backyard is the perfect way to do that."

Coppin quit the rally circuit last year and moved to Brisbane, but is making a comeback this year.

"I was out of the seat for 12 months and when I came back I was a bit shocked out how fast everyone had become," Coppin said.

"I was caught off guard a little bit. But I'm looking forward to what's coming up and to have the Asia-Pacific leg coming back, it's a great thing for Canberra."