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Bates wants to fire back in Queensland

Bates wants to fire back in Queensland

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By Paul Gover

Former Australian rally champion Lewis Bates is in a slump and needs to get back up to speed this weekend during Rally Queensland.

He was slow at his home event in Canberra at the start of the 2024 season, never shot at the World Rally Championship in Portugal and was outpaced in Perth in the second event of the Australian Championship.

While he was struggling, his older brother Harry won in a new Rally2 version of the Toyota Yaris and comeback candidate Scott Pedder was also quicker in a Skoda Fabia.

But the decline is almost over, Bates told Auto Action at Rally Queensland.

“It’s not like I’ve forgotten how to drive,” he said.

“We are still second in the championship. It is not ideal, but these things happen.”

There will be no excuses in the sunny state as the youngest member of the Bates rally dynasty will have his all-new Toyota Yaris Rally2 and he has fully recovered from the stomach virus that struck his entire team in Portugal.

“Our plan is to go to Queensland and win, score maximum points on both days and close out the championship.

“Last year in Queensland, on Sunday, was the first time we really took on Harry and challenged him for the heat win. We had a pretty close battle and in the end there was only 10 seconds between us.

“They are some of my favorite roads. I like them because they are rough and challenging.”

While the youngest Bates looks forward, he is also willing to look back.

“I don’t really know what happened at the season opener in Canberra. I felt like I was riding well, but the times weren’t good.

“That was a bit frustrating for me. It wasn’t a bad result – we were still second.

“In Perth I feel like I struggled on the first day when I cleared the road after Harry had problems. I think I rode very well on Sunday.

“All Saturday it felt like the car was on the road and I couldn’t dig it in. After the changes on Saturday evening I definitely got that feeling back.”

Portugal was a complete disaster, despite making its first start in a Rally2 Yaris, as the crew came down with a diabolical stomach flu and were sidelined on the first day by a mechanical failure.

“The result was not at all what we wanted. Nothing went our way that week.

“I’ve never been this sick in my life. I would choose Covid over that. I’ve lost 8 pounds in 24 hours,” Bates said.

“I wanted to prove myself against the best in the world and I didn’t do that at all. The pace side of things was incredibly frustrating for me.”

But he said it was still worth doing.

“The roads are great, I would say I loved 80 percent of them.

“There was absolutely no mistake in doing this. I would love to go again.”

And now Queensland.

“We’re confident,” Bates said.

“I’ve done enough miles in the Rally2 car now and we know it’s faster. We’re still in good contention.”

Image: Peter Norton EPIC Sports Photography

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