Harry Bates has won five out of eight stages on his way to taking out Heat 1 of the National Capital Rally.
Bates and co-driver John McCarthy finished 16s ahead of Australian Rally Championship leader Nathan Quinn, while Molly Taylor was a further 13s further back.
Bates edged Quinn by 2.5s in Special Stage 1, and while the Toyota Genuine Parts driver dropped to third after SS2, he won SS3 and was never headed for the rest of the day.
The result came despite Bates' S2000-spec Toyota Corolla breaking a sway bar link during the morning's running.
“It was not quite a perfect day,” said the Canberra native.
“I feel like we could be leading by a little bit more but we broke a sway bar link which made the car a little bit unpredictable on turn in and exits.
“But we did the best we could with what we had and still managed to set some reasonable stage times.
“This afternoon we went out and won three stages so that was something that we were really happy with.
“For me, I've won rallies but I don't often take the most stage wins and it's something I've been wanting to improve on so that's great.
“I'm quite surprised to be in the position that we are in to be honest, because I knew coming into this weekend that the competition would be really strong so to be 16 seconds up, I know it doesn't sound like a lot but, with the current competition its actually quite a decent gap.”
Quinn had foreshadowed a defensive approach with the points lead in mind, but the carrot of a heat win tempted the Coffs Coast Rally Team driver into pressing harder than expected.
“I was probably driving a bit faster than I had planned today but it worked out well,” said the Lancer Evo IX driver.
“We thought for a minute there we might have had a chance of winning today so the red haze took over.
“But Harry drove really well this afternoon, he did some great times and to be honest he deserves to win in his home event, as will I when I do my home event.”
Quinn was nevertheless a model of consistency yet again.
The man who leads the championship despite having not won any of the four heats across the first two rounds similarly did not win a stage all day but was never out of the top three overall.
Taylor briefly led after winning SS2, but the Subaru Impreza driver ran third for the majority of the day.
Eli Evans christened his new AP4-spec Mini Cooper with two stage wins, though teething problems held him to fourth overall.
Round 3 of the championship continues with Heat 2 tomorrow.
VIDEO: Saturday highlights, National Capital Rally
Results: Heat 1 (Top 10)
- Car 18 BATES/McCARTHY 1:09:34.5
- Car 19 QUINN/CALDER 1:09:50.8 (+00:16.3)
- Car 20 TAYLOR/HAYES 1:10:03.9 (+00:29.4)
- Car 17 EVANS/WESTON 1:10:39.3 (+01:04.8)
- Car 23 SULLENS/NEWELL 1:11:28.1 (+01:53.6)
- Car 22 PATTON/WEBB 1:12:01.7 (+02:27.2)
- Car 8 MARKOVIC/FEAVER 1:14:13.2 (+04:38.7)
- Car 13 CLARKE/PRESTON 1:14:24.0 (+04:49.5)
- Car 25 BROOKS/GLENNEY 1:14:30.2 (+04:55.7)
- Car 14 PENNY/PENNY 1:15:26.1 (+05:51.6)