Harry Bates, son of four-time Aussie rally champ, Neal Bates, is attacking Rally SA in his new 224kW all-wheel drive Toyota Yaris… we went along to check it out.

THE BATES NAME is synonymous with the Australian rally circus and the father-son team has shaken up the Australian rally championship by changing horses mid-stream.

In a proper championship battle with good friend Molly Taylor, Harry Bates and the Toyota-backed Neal Bates Motorsport team has left the long-serving 2007-build S2000 Corolla in the transporter in favour of a brand-new left-hand-drive Yaris all-wheel drive turbocharged car built to the new less-restrictive AP4 regulations.

The car started life delivering pathology parcels but found its second owners in August last year, but not until near Christmas did serious work start transforming the small Toyota from a suburban runabout into rally weapon.

Bates doesn’t want to think about the man-hours or costs involved, but believes the results by the end of Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour will be impressive.

Toyota Yaris at the Rally SA

“There is far more to tune on this car under the new freed-up regulations, the suspension system has more adjustability and more travel so more can be done with the shocks … we’re thinking a second per kilometre quicker, maybe a second and a half better than the old car, I would hope we would be at that level by Rally Australia,” he said.

While some pundits question the move as detrimental to a national championship tilt, father Neal (a four-time ARC winner) sees the switch to LHD as a vital part of the long-term plan.

 “The reason behind that is Harry’s aspirations to go to Europe, so we’re doing it now on the learning curve in case if, and when, something does or can happen, he’s at home in LHD,” he said.

With the S2000 Corolla’s age reaching double-digits, Bates Senior decided it was time to update.

“With the AP4 regulations, I liked them as a set of rules, it allows you a lot of artistic freedom on what you build,” he said.

“It has good suspension travel, a powerful engine even with the 34mm restrictor plate, it produces around 300hp and 420Nm of torque, a six-speed sequential, the Yaris is the ideal platform because it has a wheel on each corner,” he added.

The Bates behind the wheel of the Yaris was still primary school age when the S2000 car was new  – Harry and co-driver John McCarthy are excited at the prospect of putting the new car into competition and Harry believes it will pay dividends in the long-term.

Toyota Yaris at the Rally SA

“I’m at home in the old car, so from that point of view this weekend will be hard work – LHD, a new car and a new set-up – but I do anticipate that in time it will become easier to drive, it’s a bit more manoeuvrable and agile than the old car, torque from the turbo makes it more drivable but we’re not there yet,” he cautioned.

A recent purchase to assist in the transition to LHD was a new ‘recce’ car – an ex-Toyota Team Europe 1994 Celica GT4 ST205 that still has Didier Auriol’s name on it (he won the 1995 WRC title in a Celica GT4).

The new Yaris, built in-house from the ground up by a team led by NBM technical director Darryl Bush, has been built with more freedom than that allowed by the S2000 regulations.

Bush, a part of the Bates rallying empire since the early 1980s, knew at first glance the Yaris would offer a better overall package.

“It had reasonably good ground clearance and the body height is not that high, I knew it was going to be better than the S2000 Corolla is a lot taller.”

“The new regulations allow us to produce a 4WD – we’re allowed to put a transmission tunnel in, as well as a free area for the rear differential and cross member,” he said.

The slightly-smaller Yaris is allowed more adjustability by the AP4 regulations, making it easier to tune for different road conditions.

“We’ve made it as adjustable as we can under the regulations, adjustability is everything – dirt’s not dirt.

“Australia is like a mini world championship, the gravel roads are different around the country, so making it adjustable aids in performance.”

Toyota Yaris at the Rally SA

Bush subscribes to the theory that life begins with the centre of gravity and the new car’s set-up – with 280mm of suspension travel as opposed to the 220mm of the S2000 car – allows it to be lower than the outgoing S2000 Corolla.

“The width is governed under the regulations, the body is 1820mm, the wheel track is 1610mm – that goes back to the centre of gravity, the wider you can go it effectively lowers the CoG,” he said.

The new car’s roll cage delivers a strong platform for the suspension as well as top-spec safety for the crew, aided by side impact foam within the doors and up-to-date seats and seatbelts.

While the team is confident the new car will be a long-term success, its first event in SA is seen as critical preparation for Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour in mid-November, a showcase of both car and crew to a world-wide audience.

In the lead-up to Rally SA, Harry Bates took willing volunteers for laps of a short loop and quickly admitted to feeling more comfortable and confident in the LHD Yaris.

Toyota Yaris at the Rally SA

“When we first started testing it was big steps, now the steps are getting smaller …  it has more suspension travel and being slightly smaller it is more agile, it gives us more options with suspension and sway bars, there are a lot more things we’d like to try, the possibilities look endless to me,” he said.

While outright pace from standstill away from the starting line wasn’t considerably quicker, the rally young-gun was enjoying the abundance of torque available low in the rev range.

“It’s great having the torque in long corners, pitching it sideways and getting on the throttle early, with anti-lag and a nice little turbo coming on song pretty quickly, it’s able to pull you through long corners really well.”

“It (the power delivery) is really linear, with the extra travel on the new chassis it’s amazing how smooth it is, on dips and bumps in corners this car is going to be a decent step up from the Corolla for sure,” he said.

The Yaris is 230mm shorter in overall length, but 51mm of that is from the wheelbase, but it is crucially 30mm shorter in height at 1485mm and 20mm wider at 1820mm; track is up 10mm to 1610mm with race-tape protecting the requisite wheel arch flares.

Both cars use a Sadev front and rear diffs, as well as a Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox and all-wheel drive.

But the out-going car’s naturally-aspirated two-litre engine produced 190kW but only 240Nm, hence the need for 8000rpm on the tachometer to get maximum performance.

The newcomer weighs a touch more – around 30kg – but extracts more then 224kW and 420Nm from its 1.6 litre turbocharged four-cylinder, a destroked version of the 1.8-litre twin-cam 16-valve engine seen in the Celica and Corolla Sportivo road cars.

Toyota Yaris at the Rally SA

The power plant runs a Bosch fuel system, a  34mm restrictor plate that limits the WRC levels of power, Garrett 2860 turbocharger with custom PWR intercooler and a two and three-quarter inch exhaust delivering an angry-wasp-on-speed soundtrack through the forest.

The 300mm AP racing brakes with four-pot callipers are also common to both vehicles, as is the MacPherson strut suspension set-up front and rear, but the Yaris is equipped with MCA coil springs and remove-reservoir dampers to make the most of the 280mm of wheel travel on offer.

The new car is running slightly larger Speedline gravel 15x7in wheels (up half an inch in width) with MRF 205/65 tyres where Michelins were found on the S2000 car.

A short sprint around the loop in the seat normally occupied by co-driver John McCarthy, the Yaris immediately impresses with a ride quality not normally associated with a rally car – the long travel suspension making short work of some of the nastier bumpers presented in the short run adjacent the Mt Crawford forest.

The small turbocharged power plant spools up quickly and slingshots the little Yaris down the dirt track without apparent effort, followed by a powerful bite from the brakes as the hairpin looms large in the windscreen.

The braking grip is remarkable, with minimal squirming into the corner, with a return to full acceleration (on the highest boost map) also demonstrating its traction.

Toyota Yaris at the Rally SA

It’s all un-fussed as Bates the Younger gets to grips with his new conveyance, which is spartan within – but elegantly simple in its first-class execution – with the control stalks from the donor vehicle amusingly remaining on either side of the steering column.

Harry Bates is clearly enjoying the new vehicle and the prospect of fine-tuning it ahead of the WRC round in Coffs Harbour in November.

“We’re hoping it’s about a second a kilometre quicker, we’ll have a better idea after this weekend,” he said with a smile.

Toyota Yaris AP4 Specifications:


Toyota Yaris

Engine type:

1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder

Engine Designation:

2ZZ-GE (de-stroked from 1.8L to 1.6L)



Valve mechanism:

Twin-cam 16-valve

Fuel system:

Restrictor Plate:


34mm restrictor plate



Bore x stroke (mm):

82.0 x 76.4

Compression ratio:






Garrett 2860

Custom 2 ¾ inch

Custom PWR Front-mount

Motec M150 power management system and C125 display/logger

Maximum Power:


Maximum Torque:


Driveline type:

All-wheel drive



Sadev six-speed sequential

Sadev (front & rear)

Steering system:

Hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion

Front brakes:

300mm x 30mm slotted discs, four-piston AP Racing callipers

Rear brakes:

Hand Brake:

300mm x 30mm slotted discs, four-piston AP Racing callipers

Sadev Hydraulic

Front suspension:

Independent MacPherson struts with MCA coil springs and remote-reservoir dampers

Rear suspension:

Independent MacPherson struts with MCA coil springs and remote-reservoir dampers




Fuel Tank:



Steering Wheel:

Roll Cage:

Speedline 15 x 7.0 “

MRF 205/65R15

Braille dry cell

75L ATL Fuel Cell

Racetech RT9119

6-point Sabelt

Sabelt 330mm

Custom chrome moly


Minimum dry weight: 1230kg

Overall length: 3945mm


Width: 1820mm


Height: 1485mm


Wheelbase: 2525mm


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About Author

Stuart Martin

Stuart Martin started his legal driving life behind the wheel of a 1976 Jeep ragtop, which he still owns to this day, but his passion for wheeled things was inspired much earlier. Regular work and play has subsequently involved towing, off-roading, the school run and everything in between, with Martin now working freelance as a motoring journalist, contributing to several websites and publications including Practical Motoring.

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