A competitor’s car burnt out during the second stage of the Eureka Rally on Saturday.
Lewis Bates’ Toyota Corolla caught alight after sliding wide on a corner and was destroyed.
Bates beached his car on a gravel bank and was unable to get back on the road, with the heat from the exhaust igniting the dry undergrowth and then his vehicle.
After a see-sawing battle that raged all afternoon, Bates’ brother Harry claimed the opening heat of the Australian Rally Championship event.
The Toyota driver won by a margin of 14.8sec after 120 kilometres of competitive stages in the Mt Hope, Blackwood Ridge and Korweinguboora area.
Harry Bates snatched the victory on the last stage from runner-up Nathan Quinn, with Ballarat’s Aaron Windus placing third.
“The win feels amazing and is the perfect start to the season. The whole team has made a huge effort over the break and this win is a reward for everyone’s hard work,” Harry Bates said.
Reigning Australian champion Molly Taylor battled to finish seventh outright.
Competitors will start on Sunday morning with a clean sheet for heat two of the event.
Racing resumes at 8:20am, with stages to the north and south of Ballarat.