2024 Forest Rally, Western Australia

by Daniel Elias

I always love the Forest Rally in Western Australia. With the teams basing themselves in the peaceful town of Busselton and the stages of the rally in the forests surrounding Nannup - this rally is the perfect mix of close competition, stunning scenery and lingering sunsets. In this blog article you're going to get an insight into each day of a rally event for us.

Flying into Perth on Wednesday evening, it was instantly apparent how dry this rally was going to be. WA has been in drought for months and looking out of the airplane window, the pastel tones were exaggerated by the soft dusk light. The drive to Busselton takes 3 hours from Perth so we arrive after long after dark, ready for bed and keen for the morning test.

We've flown to Western Australia to provide event support for the Toyota GR Yaris rally cars of Luff Motorsport and Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia, a mix of the Australia built AP4 and the new factory built Rally2 model. Our job is to the help the teams to gain the most performance from these thoroughbred machines, whilst ensuring that their reliability is maintained through the harshest of stages. To facilitate this, we're ready in the service park to provide support when it's needed most, on standby to help with any electrical and wiring repairs the teams may also require.


Thursday morning comes in what feels like a blink of an eye. The early morning drive into the forest takes us down forestry services roads until an the dense forest opens to a clearing. We arrive with plenty of time before the stage opens, but there are already eager teams assembling from across the country. There's articulated lorries, vans with trailers and countless support vehicles, all punctuated with clean liveried rally cars. This is the only time over the weekend that the cars will truly be clean...

The teams use these test stages to refine their setups ahead of the weekend. We walk down to the stage start to the smell of race fuel, the sound of cyclic idle and the cold forest air brushing our faces. The test stage's surface appeared to have held some moisture from the previous weekend's sporadic rain, but whatever humidity was there quickly turned into dust as the competition vehicles sent dirt flying.

The surface in WA is unique in that it is formed for lots of tiny round stones, almost marble like in their appearance and grip levels! It's a challenge to move quickly on foot, which makes these cars and the driver's talent's even more impressive.

With the ferocity of a lioness protecting her young, Lewis Bate's GR Yaris AP4 car ramps onto it's launch control. Just like the afore mentioned lion, the car burst into motion, both frantic and effortless, it just looks right as the rear suspension compresses, the front rises up and gravel goes everywhere. The barrage of sound is broken momentarily as Lewis pulls another gear and disappears out of sight, pulling gears until you hear the car transition into the anti-lag system for the first turn.

These modern rally cars sound very different to their older counterparts, with the advance in engine technologies they are more efficient than ever before. As the cars tense up in competition, there's no flames and heavy explosions, this is replaced by muffled exhaust sounds and a litany of chirps from the turbocharger compressor wheel. If the previous generations of car could be compared to an artillery bombardment, the newer generation cars are more akin to the special forces; they're efficient and arguably more effective.

With the cars adjusted and the teams content, everyone returned to their accommodation to prepare the cars ahead of the weekend's event.


Friday morning is a slower start for the teams than the rest of the weekend, with the drivers and co-drivers completing recce the team clean and prepare the cars for the evening's ceremonial start.

With perfect autumnal weather, we took the opportunity to walk the length of Busselton's famous wooden jetty. At 1.851km long it's the longest wooden jetty in the sourthern hemisphere and is a rather pleasant stroll first thing in the morning. The sun rising over the eastern horizon, fisherman quietly going about their day and a pod of dolphins breaking the surface of the water for a breath of the crisp morning air. This is not a normal morning during a motorsport weekend, but that's part of the charm of Forest Rally.

We spend the rest of the day checking calibrations, performing software updates and making logistical plans with the teams all at a relaxed pace. Being prepared for these events is key, so whilst Friday is a slower day, it's also vitally important to get plans in place with the multiple teams and cars that we're supporting. The calm before the storm.

Both the Rally2 and AP4 cars use Bosch Motorsport electronics to gain the most from their powertrain, whilst also being robust enough for extended rally use. These systems are core to generating the power and drivability that the teams need, whilst also providing clear feedback to us via their extensive data logging, they're top shelf components that are at home in these professional motorsport vehicles.

The sleepy town of Busselton burst into life on Friday evening as the rally show lit up the jetty foreshore. Fierce competition vehicles rumbled into the ceremonial start, with locals getting the opportunity to get up close with legendary race cars, drivers, co-drivers and teams. As the sunset filled the sky full of colour, the cars fired into life and disappeared into the night, ready to battle it out in the forests.


Waking early on the Saturday morning, the 45 minute drive to Nannup is completed just in time to catch the sunrise through the trees. The Luff Motorsport and Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia teams setup in unison, each team member knowing exactly what needs to be done to ensure success. We carry out our pre-event checks, zeroing sensors and making sure that all the Bosch Motorsport electronics are up and running before the cars leave for the day's rallying.

Our work continues throughout the weekend, keeping an eye on the system vitals and helping the teams with any technical issues that arise. The data system and our use of it helps the teams catch issues before they arise, saving vital time when out on stage whilst also keeping the engine performing at it's peak. This becomes apparent for one of the teams as their intercooler spray bar pump become intermittent, this can make a big difference to engine performance on these high compression turbocharged engines so is a good example of where time can be found.

Saturday's racing started with a bang for Harry Bates and Coral Taylor as their Rally2 car hit a hole in the road in the opening stage, causing heavy damage to the front left suspension. They managed to limp the car back to the service park and the TGR-A team worked calmly to have the car repaired and back racing. Meanwhile, Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin showed great pace, with an unfortunate penalty affecting their overall position. Jamie Luff and his brother Brad kept pushing hard in their GR Yaris AP4, keeping their driving clean as they continue to gain experience in the car.

At the end of the day you feel energised from being around this high performance environment, but the moment that your body begins to relax it's apparent that the combination of an early start, lots of fresh air, reviewing data and keeping on schedule has taken it's toll. The drive back out to Busselton is full of stories from the day, discussion of things that could be done better and the important task of planning dinner. By the time we're back in Busselton, the sun is clawing at the horizon and we get an early night as Sunday isn't far away.


Sunday marks the end of the rally, with each team pushing hard to cut vital seconds from each competitive stage. The competition was tight throughout the day, with Scott Pedder and Glenn Macneall in their Skoda WRC2 topping the timing for the opening stages, however they had an engine issue which dropped them from contention for the top podium spot.

With no technical issues for the GR Yaris's the teams were able to show their true pace, with the reining champions Harry and Coral recovering from their Saturday damage to take the overall win for the weekend. To recover so much time without making a mistake was truly incredible, with the entire service park taken aback by their performance.

This event also marked the end of TGR-A campaigning the GR Yaris AP4 cars that were built and developed by Neal Bates Motorsport. These cars have been at the core of winning the manufacturer's title, team title and the driver + co-driver championship for the past two years; so it was a fitting send off that Lewis and Anthony were able to win the final power stage! Lewis and Anthony will begin competing their GR Yaris Rally2 car at Rally Queensland in June, where they're hoping to top the timing.

The podium was held in Nannup, the team was joined by the President of GAZOO Racing Company, Tomoya Takahashi, who got to visit the Forest Rally for the first time and congratulated the team on their win and overall performance.

The GR Yaris AP4 of Jamie and Brad Luff also performed flawlessly all weekend, with the duo building confidence and finding pace with the car. They're looking forward to Rally Queensland where the team can continue to develop their performance.

I began this blog post by saying that I love this rally, and this year was no exception. Beginning the days in the crisp morning air, working with the teams on cars covered in red dust, the firey sunsets over the water in Busselton... it's an event well worth traveling to experience.

We're looking forward to the rest of the season, with the next rally being our home event, Rally Queensland on the 28-30th June 2024. Rally central for this event is Gympie Showgrounds, where there is ample parking available for those that want to come along and witness the event. Use the official Australian Rally Championship event website HERE to find out all the information you need to spectate.

Hopefully we get to see you at Forest Rally next year!


Photo and video by Artisan Assets

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