Motorsport Australia

SpeedSeries has returned for another new season that started today at Sandown Raceway in Victoria where a few categories have came back, while some have came into the fold for the first time on what is going to be a huge year ahead – including the Bathurst 6 Hour during the Easter long weekend, as well as the TCR World Tour drivers coming back again to take on the Aussie field this November at Eastern Creek (Sydney Motorsports Park) & Bathurst (Mount Panorama Circuit) respectively.

But there’s also a change of broadcaster too as Seven has returned replacing Nine & Stan Sport as their broadcast partner for the next two years. Yes, the shift of having most of the stuff behind the paywall including elements of free-to-air content didn’t work out for the majority. Although if they did add the three-hour Sunday races on top of the three-hour Saturday coverage including the Bathurst 6 Hour race, then it wouldn’t be bad. However, it was the change of hands from Australian Racing Group back to Motorsport Australia that led to Nine/Stan leaving the series also after two years when ARG brought them here exactly two years ago. Before that, Seven first broadcasted the competition in 2021 (the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID) before the split paywall experiment while SBS aired the inaugural TCR Australia season for one year in 2019.

Now most of the broadcast graphics including the leaderboard haven’t changed much except the SpeedSeries logo being moved from the bottom right to the bottom left. Same goes with the broadcast team like Chris Stubbs (he will still be on Stan’s grand slam Tennis coverage throughout the year as he’s freelance), Matt Naulty, Richard Craill & Greg Rust. Although one new face have now come onboard front & centre in Sarah Burt as a few will be moved on. We won’t be seeing ex-Supercars driver Fabian Coulthard & Rally legend Molly Taylor back again. So does Matt White, who not only appeared on Nine for the first time over the last two years as host after he spent so much time between Seven & Ten, but he also returned to commentary for a bit towards the end of last season in the Trans-Am alongside Naulty due to Craill having to focus on the TCR World Tour’s Australian leg with Rust and Paul Jeffrey.

Another thing we won’t have to put up is Nine’s inability on not wanting to use the Wide World of Sports watermark as seen with the SpeedSeries’ free-to-air broadcasts last year where Seven & even Ten and SBS has presented it so nicely when it comes to their motorsports coverage. But I doubt it won’t go away anytime soon since they barely broadcast any racing until Stan Sport was born back in 2021 when Nine will get to air a bit again Live during the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June with parent streaming subsdiary Stan still holding the rights there alongside IndyCar, Formula E, Rallying, Motocross & the World Endurance Championship. So there goes your SpeedSeries broadcast guide this season other than Supercars being on Seven for half the time as well as Fox Sports who holds all of the races including Formula 1, NASCAR & MotoGP & both Australian Grand Prix events will stay on Network 10. And that is that for now as we wish SpeedSeries all the best going forward in growing the competition towards better milestones for Motorsport in Australia.

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So there we have it! SpeedSeries including Trans-Am and TCR Australia will return to the Seven Network next season after two years out at Nine through its paid streaming service Stan Sport as well as some free-to-air on 9Gem/9Go & also 9Now. Every round will be live and free on its free streaming platform 7Plus as well as through 2-3 hour TV windows on 7mate. Plus, there should be free to view on-demand replays, the Bathurst 6 Hour Easter race and mid-week to next weekend TV highlights of each round.

Gotta say that the paid and free content split did not work out when SpeedSeries is not on the same level as Supercars, even if Fox/Kayo did share the series with Seven instead of Nine/Stan who did a great job covering SpeedSeries. It’s just that the change of media rights hands back to Motorsport Australia recently from Australian Racing Group makes it complicated when most of their sanctioned competitions are on Seven.

But having everything free-to-air is massive so every Motorsport fan here can check this out whether it’s watching Live or on-demand at anytime, anywhere throughout the year. It also remains to be seen who will be back next year when it comes to the on-air talent where most of them will be staying on except with just 1-2 changes, which I think Mark Beretta will be back for Matt White since he’s always been on Seven with Motorsport as well as reading sports reports for the Sunrise brekky program for a long time.

Other than the Nine and Stan exit, it looks like the S5000s and Touring Car Masters will be following them out the door as they could end up being a regular part of the Supercars schedule. Although the Australian GT World challenge will look to stay on the SpeedSeries categories list after SRO has taken full control recently alongside the Australian GT4 Series.

For now, you can catch these last two-hour replays from the Bathurst International season finale weekend on 9Go tomorrow at noon, as well as midnight Sunday 12.20am that is followed by an hour highlights from the 6 Hours of Bahrain (also a season finale round) in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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First of all, I’m glad that SpeedSeries –  which showcases a range of categories from TCR Australia to Trans-Am & S5000 single seaters – has improved their free to air coverage this year with every race live throughout the season during Saturday afternoons. That way, if you like how the coverage and racing is like, then you can watch the rest of the weekend’s events including a full suite on-demand content only via subscription on Stan Sport.

When Nine came onboard to replace Seven at the start of last year by having most of the content behind a paywall via their own streaming arm at Stan Sport, it was initially just the opening round weekend at Symmons Plains Raceway in Tassie live on free-to-air with the rest being mid-week & next weekend two-hour replays. They even promised to put the mid-week stuff on prime time at one point to get the best out of the channel’s advertisers as well as the series itself.

But then their free-to-air highlights schedule was inconsistent & all over the place at the time while they didn’t show the Phillip Island round live at all. So to respond to that issue, they went on air the rest of 2022 with just the Saturday afternoon races Live in a two-hour window between 3-5pm. Now it’s gone from two to three hours per round with the amount of time allowed on free-to-air between 2-5pm where they showed more than just TCR Australia, Trans-Am & S5000s. Plus, their following week’s two-hour replays has improved consistently as well that starts on a Friday at noon followed by a 2nd showing either late on Saturday night or in the early hours of Sunday AM.

I’m also glad to see some International flavour when it comes to seeing the world’s best TCR drivers come here v the locals (TCR Australia) as part of the two-round TCR World Tour Australian leg here over the course of last weekend in Eastern Creek and also this weekend at Bathurst’s famed Mount Panorama Circuit. There is still one more day to go where the next day’s activities tomorrow is only on Stan Sport before the eight-round TCR Australia & SpeedSeries is done for 2023.

The only negative still out of this improved free-to-air coverage is the way Nine uses their logo which isn’t the usual Wide World of Sports watermark, although Stan Sport has made good use by showcasing their logo for the all the sports they got including Motorsport. Instead, they gone straight off 9Gem/9Go with the Live tag below it which isn’t uniquely WWOS & more like a copycat coverage of Seven or Ten, who airs racing way long enough & very well than Nine. I have also emailed my concerns to Stan about it a few months ago & although they took note of it but then they never listen. Maybe that’s because Nine & Stan are only showing it on the air & not have complete control in-house, which is under SpeedSeries itself.

There is also talk about next season’s broadcast lately since Motorsport Australia will now handle the media side of things rather than the Australian Racing Group, having taken half the control of SpeedSeries ARG that began at the start of 2023. Maybe the exit of Supercars Media running the production with the TV trucks control & graphics before the 2023 season started has probably caused Nine to revert to the 9Gem/9Go logo rather than the WWOS logo which was previously used for most of last year except Round 1. Now there is a chance that Nine as an exclusive rights holder may not be back next season.

If they’re really coming back, then great. If there is plenty of SpeedSeries articles up on the WWOS website which happens regularly, so why can’t this be extended on TV? Let’s hope it finally happens if Nine/Stan stays on. If not, we could see SpeedSeries go to Seven & Fox Sports or Ten/Paramount +. Regardless of that, the balance of having both paid & free content is here to stay that needs to cover the $$$ back to all types of participants involved as they will be back to set even more breakthroughs in 2024.

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Yesterday afternoon of ARG SpeedSeries racing at Queensland Raceway was full of twists and turns, where losing control or being collected into the gravel can cost you a few spots or even dearly. It changed the course of these opening respective races with the Trans-Am & TCR Australia.

We’ll start with the TCRs and what a day it has been for Tony D’Alberto in the No.50 Honda Civic Type-R for Wall Racing. Not only he set and started pole position but he too took the opening race win which was too easy from start to finish. While Zac Soutar would’ve love to have a close sniff of Tony and challenge him for top spot, but he‘s happy to finish 2nd also in the same Honda car & hopefully go one better for the next two Sunday races.

And it’s good to see Jay Hanson back on the podium in 3rd for the Melbourne Performance Centre organisation, as well as Bailey Sweeny in 5th behind Aaron Cameron (No.18 Peugeot 308 for Garry Rogers Motorsport) following an opening lap scare through the grass that cost him a few spots. Although, Sweeny’s team-mate Nathan Morcom was unlucky to be taken out by Ben Bargwanna into the gravel.

Then we go into Trans-Am where we also saw another driver who was too good with Nathan Herne in the No.1 Ford Mustang for Garry Rogers Motorsport. He has no problems getting the job done from pole position to dominating the entire field, especially when some drivers behind him was collected through the gravel on the opening lap. While some slip and spills continue across the race track, it’s great to see 17-year-old Jett Johnson finish 2nd after he got around Supercars regular Brodie Kostecki in 3rd with credit from these restarts. So awesome seeing Brodie spend the weekend here as he hopes to fulfil his NASCAR aspirations over in the US next year, especially when he was being linked with Trackhouse Racing’s 3rd part-time Cup car that has a specific focus on International drivers.

Can’t wait for Races 2 & 3 later today with TCR & Trans-Am to round off Round 5 of 7 in the 2022 SpeedSeries season.

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Round 4 of the 2022 Australian Rally Championship season at Rally Queensland may have been called off two weekends ago on the 24-26th last month due to flooding over in Gympie, QLD at the time. But I’m delighted to catch up with one of the current drivers in this competition in Troy Dowel, who drives the No.4 Hyundai i20 RX with co-driver Bernie Webb for Proto Cars Australia.

1. How prepared were you heading to Gympie QLD before the Rally Queensland event was cancelled over the weekend beyond the organiser’s control?

We were feeling fairly prepared for gympie as we had competed in about half of the stages for this year’s event the previous year. However I believe one of the most important aspects of our preparations for Rally Queensland was the decent results we got back in Western Australia & Tasmania and being able to carry that momentum into the next round. 

2. .You & your co-driver Bernie Webb are currently sitting 4th in the Drivers’ Standings after 3 rounds, how good was it to bounce back from the opening round in ACT to potentially challenging the Bates brothers and Richie & Dale in the Shamrock car after back-to-back 4th placed finishes in WA & Launceston?

Yeah it was definitely a good feeling bouncing back from Canberra, it is all about building experience for us this year so it is nice for our pace to begin to get a little closer to the front runners however we still have a long way to go until we can start challenging them consistently but I believe we are definitely on the right path.     

3. Looking ahead to Rally Gippsland in a few weeks’ time, what are your favourite and not so favourite stages to tackle over in Victoria?

Most of the stages are pretty good in Victoria so I don’t think I really have any unfavourable stages, however my favourite stages to tackle in Victoria are definitely Yarra Valley stages such as Mt Slide.  

4. Now I don’t know if you follow the World Rally Championship or not, but what’s your favourite memories of Rally Australia growing up and whether or not if you will take part as a driver should the event return in 2023 or 2024?

My favourite memory of Rally Australia was when I made my rally debut in 2017, I had a lot of good memories from that event and even managed to get my first ARC stage win on a super special stage. I think if the event did return we would definitely take part. It is always a highlight of the year.  

5. And do you have any other rallying stints going on other than the ARC later this season and where do I keep up to date with your career on social media?

Yeah we do, we have the rally of the bay coming up very shortly. It is based around Batemans Bay and has some iconic stages. You can follow me on Facebook & Instagram under Troy Dowel. 

We thank Troy for his time to respond to a few questions on the Sports Benches blog. Good luck to him for the rest of the year with his Rallying activities, as you can catch Troy in action next Saturday for the Rally of the Bay at Batesmans Bay in Regional NSW before the ARC resumes for Round 5 of 7 on Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th August in Gippsland, VIC.

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I had the pleasure to speak to Dean Herridge on the phone a few days ago when I went through the latest Australian Rally Championship round with him from last weekend at Rally Launceston in Tasmania.

We’ve talked about the following topics such as:

  • Irish luck with Shamrock Motorsport.
  • Lewis Bates’s remarkable recovery from the early Saturday heat rounds.
  • Hometown success from Tasmania’s own Eddie Maguire.
  • Coral Taylor’s one-off return to the co-driving role this time with Harry Bates.
  • And we round off a brief next round preview at Rally Queensland in a few weeks time on the 22nd-24th later this month. Plus, will anyone stop Harry at the moment with an outlook on his next career goals.

We also have a video version of my interview below:

  1. Irish Luck with Shamrock Motorsport: They had a great weekend start on Saturday but luckily kept 2nd despite a poor Sunday run. What do you think of the duo (Richie Dalton & Dale Moscatt) right now?

Richie (Dalton) has back-to-back podiums, so in the past, we were joking about the Irish and his luck as he has been a bit unlucky in and around the series (Australian Rally Championship) for a long time. He stepped into various cars and now drives one of the ex-factory Toyotas – bringing in a generation to find some form. So, he moved with pretty good speed – probably similar to Lewis (Bates) at the moment. Their back-to-back podium finishes seem to have pleased them as well.

  1. How did Lewis Bates recover from that poor start on Saturday and then work his way back into the final podium spot in 3rd?

Yeah, what’s happening is more of our sprint rounds; we only have the heats, so someplace like Day 1 – you lock away points, and that’s your points for Saturday. Despite a dismal Saturday, they were lucky to get into the Top 4 thanks to a much better Sunday performance. They had to start back at zero on Sunday for Heat 2 stages.

Obviously, Harry went on to win again this time, followed by Lewis in 2nd. His (Lewis’s) points tally of a 2nd and a 4th is the same as Richie (Dalton) in the Shamrock car (Toyota Yaris). Richie had a really poor Sunday in comparison. They were equal on points; Richie ultimately gets 2nd on the podium through a countback- total time on the weekend. Points from Saturday and Sunday are added together to get the round result that we saw on the podium. Lewis was lucky to get on the podium despite having troubles with Heat 1 on Saturday.

Young Troy Dowel missed out by one point, so he got two-thirds which is a great result. But he was just one point away from being on the podium. As I said, a 2nd and a 4th are better than two-thirds in terms of how the points structure works, and that came about.

  1. Hometown hero: How did you react to the Tasmanian success story in none other than Eddie Maguire?

It’s not unusual because Eddie (Maguire) is an excellent driver. He won Targa Tasmania on the tarmac several times in one of those Dodge Vipers. He’s got a great pedigree and is a very talented driver; he doesn’t do as much on the main gravel rallying. So it was great to see some locals step up from their state series (Tasmanian Rally Championship), including the ARC (Australian Rally Championship) and the Hoosier Control Tyres. As you mentioned, he (Eddie) ended up being the top of the production class. It is not a surprise because the production cars are slightly older and heavier; they’re not expected to take on the likes of the Toyota and the R5 cars. But ultimately, Eddie’s a class act and did a great job as expected.

  1. I also saw you on the post-rally coverage with Coral Taylor on how she has her retro racing suit and hat on while she filled in the weekend as Harry Bates’s co-driver?

Obviously, she’s (Coral) not been competing. I’d use the word definitely, but she’s a legend of the sport (rallying in Australia). She’s been around for 30-plus years; She’s won four championships and also won Targa Tasmania with Neal Bates. They’re obviously the most winning combination in the Australian Rally Championship history with 29-round wins. She currently has 34-round wins herself – just one behind Possum Bourne.

She stepped in because Harry’s usual co-driver, John McCarthy, couldn’t be here due to contracting COVID in the lead-up. She was the fill-in co-driver brought in as someone who wasn’t effectively competing. Still, she was a highly experienced co-driver to step into the role. That was a great result for them as she won another round, and it was surprising that she had a current race suit on when she was just filling in.

She wasn’t entirely…well…the decision was made on Tuesday prior to the event (Rally Launceston) for that change (of co-driver role with Harry Bates). So, at the end of the day, the deputy (Coral) was there to get the pace notes sorted. Harry has different pace notes than everyone else; you have to learn them, get on board, do the reconnects on Thursday and Friday and then get in the car, and obviously, he’s top on pace. Coral did an outstanding job stepping in, and she’s as good as anyone to step in as a co-driver again.

  1. Can anyone stop Harry Bates and John McCarthy from winning in Rally Queensland in a few weeks’ time?

No, not that sort of problem. I don’t think so. I believe this is a challenging position – probably Eli Evans is as good as he goes. In Perth, he showed pace in that mini, but he has reliability issues. On speed, it’s only going to be someone like Eli Evans who can do it close. Otherwise, I think I spoke before of Richie’s (Dalton) naivety to be able to set a pace for each other; Other people who are pretty new to it are learning a little bit. So, I think they’ll have their issues and it will be tough to stop them (H. Bates & McCarthy), as you suggest.

The difficult part of Harry’s (Bates) now and career is that they will only likely win the Australian Rally Championship again. It will be his second title. It was a difficult period through COVID as we couldn’t crown a champion back in 2020 with a couple more on the line. Because he’s young, he should try and go overseas to find opportunities and fight; He needs the battles. Although he scored wins and dominated the ARC series at the start, you’re always learning.

The next phase is to learn how to win under pressure and fight for second place – at the moment, he’s not really under that pressure. For now, his career is all on winning the Australian Rally Championship, and many people would love to do that. But for sure, he would like to try and get that experience overseas. I believe that’s where he thinks about how good it can be in the long term, how it fits in with their Toyota deal, and his arrangements, funding, and the possibility of competing overseas to improve if he had the option to do so.

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Harry Bates was too good once again at Rally Launceston in Tasmania after we just finished Round 3 of the 2022 Australian Rally Championship. It was a bit different though when his usual right-hand man John McCarthy was forced to sit out for a week due to a positive COVID test, so thankfully Coral Taylor was fortune to step into his place for this occasion. We love how Coral said during post-rally that she wore her retro racing apparel & hat as her good luck charm, while H.Bates smashed all 12 stages unchallenged from start to finish in the No.1 Toyota Yaris GR.

Finishing off P2 is the No.3 Shamrock Motorsports Yaris of Richie Dalton & Dale Moscatt. We love their strong start from Heat 1 Saturday that helped them work their way up into 2nd. Although they may have struggled a bit of consistency going into yesterday, but they pulled off well nonetheless.

Then we saw Harry’s brother Lewis finished 3rd with Anthony McLoughlin in the sister No.2 Yaris GR. They may have fired off slow earlier yesterday during Heat 1 but glad they caught up with ample time needed to get back into 4th going into Sunday – even though they had to settle for 2nd-3rd best in the final few stages.

4th place belongs to Troy Dowel & Bernie Webb in the No.4 Hyundai i20 for Proto Cars Australia. An early momentum build-up was important to stay ahead which is exactly what they wanted after Heat 1 Saturday. Although they couldn’t find a way to hold off L. Bates/A. McLoughlin going into today, but it’s still a treat to connect that execution past the final power stage.

And hats off to Eddie Maguire on his weekend at his hometown. Not only he topped the Top 5 but also won the Production Cup class in the No.7 Mitsubishi Evo 9 with Zak Brakey.

We can’t wait for Rally QLD on the 22nd-24th next month with four rounds left in the ARC schedule this year.

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This year’s Bathurst 6 Hour at Mount Panorama Circuit was extraordinary to watch, even though the start time was pushed back by half an hour to 11.45 AM AEST due to the fog, where 63 cars fought for every track position across multiple categories.

The No.40 BMW M4 trio of Karl Begg/David Russell/Aaron Norris launched this race from pole position instead of Tom Sargent/Cam Hill in the No.147 BMW M2 following a post-qualifying infringement during inspection (ride height). However, it doesn’t mean their chances of winning are near impossible for the No.147 Tegra Australia team when they made their way from very back to the Top 3-4 as it goes on.

Then we saw a couple of yellows via a series of spins, mechanical failures & wrecks came up that gave the No.147 BMW team some confidence ahead of these restarts; but at the same time, it was a blow for the No.40 Btuned Euro BMW M4 when the pole sitters forced to stop the car on the start/finish straight. Although we saw a couple of competitors escape some twists and turns that almost bit them out of the race, which was lucky to survive & continued racing at the Mountain.

But the big storyline of this race has been the BMW front row battle; it’s just Brad Carr/Tim Slade in the No.8 Car Mods Australia-backed M3 model; against Sargent/Hill in the No.147 Tegra Australia M2 Competition machinery. Both competitors shared the overall race lead thus far before we witnessed the winning move of this Bathurst 6 Hour race with 20 minutes to go on the clock. Slade & Hill went side-by-side before Hill nudged past Slade on the outside line at Brock’s Skyline (Turn 11 of 23) & eventually held off top spot for the win, which led to an overwhelming reaction back in the No.147 team’s pit garage.

How great was it when Tom Sargent/Cam Hill conquered the Mountain from the very back of the grid!

It’s also good to see Garry Rogers Motorsport’s TCR Australia driver Dylan O’Keeffe take home the A1 class win in 4th overall with Mike Sheargold in the No.45 Mercedes AMG for RAM/GWR. And the same goes with TV personality & reigning Dancing with the Stars Australia Champion Grant Denyer, who won the A2 Class in 8th overall with co-driver Tony Quinn in the No.7 Local Legends Ford Mustang.

If you want to relive the 6-hour race both in full length and bitesize, watch it on ad-free Stan Sport right now at any time if you haven’t already got a subscription. Otherwise, Nine will be showcasing the weekend’s ARG SpeedSeries event from Mount Panorama in a two-hour highlights package via their Free TV Channels on Saturday AM from 11.30-13.30 (9Gem) & Sunday Afternoon from 13.30 to 15.30 (9Go).

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What an unreal spell from reigning Supercars champion Shane Van Gisbergen when he got his wish in rallying thanks to Team Red Bull. They supplied him with the Skoda Fabia R5 alongside co-driver Glen Weston, where he & Glen managed to finish runner-up in the opening round of the 2022 Australian Rally Championship. Although it’s a one-off effort since he’s got full-time Supercars duties to defend, Van Gisbergen was running in Top 3-4 all the time, especially towards the end of the rally yesterday on Day 2 with two-stage wins (SS12 & SS13) that includes the Power Stage finale.

In the end, though, you can’t underestimate the brilliance of the current Australian rally champions Harry Bates & his co-driver John McCarthy in the Toyota GR Yaris AP4 for his family-run team. They were too good to pull off the opening day with all the first seven stage wins that put them way upfront before Bates/McCarthy stayed ahead, which was enough to secure an easy win.

Apart from Harry Bates & SVG’s success stories, other competitors stood out throughout the opening round in Canberra. Good to see Brendan Reeves and Kate Catford round off the final podium spot in the Hyundai i20 RN. They started not bad on Day 1, but their late turnaround sets them for an improved Day 2 when ending H.Bates/McCarthy stranglehold with the Stage 8 win, which boosted their confidence.

Taylor Gill & Kim Bessell also had a great showing in 4th, where they also secured the NSW Rally class win in the Subaru WRX STi for Curiositi. And shoutout to Tom Clarke/Ryan Preston (White Wolf Ford Fiesta) & Timothy Wilkins/Jim Gleeson (Wilkins Mitsubishi Evo IX). These guys may have languished in and out of the Top 10 at the start, but a few other competitors’ DNFs given them progress as this rally goes on with a respective 5th & 6th finish.

It will be interesting to see who will challenge Bates & McCarthy up close with six rounds left of the 2022 ARC season, as this series moves over to the Forest Rally in WA on Saturday & Saturday, May 21-22.

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