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Bates Australia's best hope of WRC drive

AAP logoAAP 19/11/2016 Scott Bailey

Australia could have its first full-time driver in a World Rally Championship category since 2012 next year.

Toyota driver Harry Bates, who at 21 is in contention to become the youngest driver to ever win the Australian Rally Championship this weekend in Coffs Harbour, is aiming to enter next season's Junior WRC series.

Bates is currently waiting to see which manufacturer wins the tender for the series before considering budgetary constraints and entering the academy competition.

And despite the fact he's only into his second year of rallying, he and co-driver John McCarthy believe he is ready.

"Definitely I would be looking at doing something next year," Bates said.

"We spoke about it at the start of this year and we decided I really didn't have enough development yet.

"I think we've made up our minds that this year we've done some good development and it's probably time to try and do something over there."

Fellow Australian Scott Pedder has driven in three of the 13 WRC2 races this year.

Molly Taylor also raced four Junior WRC events in 2013, while Brendan Reeves was the last Australian to compete full-time in the academy category in 2012.

However Bates, whose father Neale won the Australian championship four times, is considered by rally insiders to be the best hope of being the country's first top-tier driver to one day race a season in the WRC since Chris Atkinson in 2008.

With the junior age set at 27, he would have up to six years in the underage series to impress senior teams before trying to move from the second-tier to compete with the world's best.

"The average age of entry into an actual age of entry into a world rally car is something like 26 or 27 years old," Bates said.

"In rallying it does take a while to develop.

"It's a bit of a misconception, people will often compare it to surface racing but I'm 21 and in rallying that's still reasonably young."

Australian drivers have long struggled to maintain the finances to race in the expensive European categories.

However Bates visited Finland earlier in the year as a training measure and is again exposed to the world's best teams at this weekend's Rally Australia on the NSW north coast.

"You're exposing yourself to the same people you would be in Europe but you're back at home," he said.

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