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Anticipation is reaching new heights as the 2006 NGK Rally of Melbourne is poised to be one of the most exciting rallies staged in Australian rally history with the top four drivers preparing to battle it out in the Yarra Valley for the championship on 22-24 September.
Just 22 points separate the top three in the championship race and with Toyota's Simon Evans (170 points) leading team mate Neal Bates by just 16 points with privateer Dean Herridge in his Subaru third, a mere 6 points adrift of Bates, while Mitsubishi's Scott Pedder remains an outside chance 38 points behind Herridge.
With 30 points on offer for each of the two heats as well as 1.5 bonus points for the driver with the most stage wins, the slightest slip up on the weekend could spell the end for any championship aspirations.
Local hero Evans knows he can't afford to take a cautious approach to claim his first ever championship in front of a parochial home crowd, with less than a heat win between the top three drivers.
"It's going to be an awesome round and I've already started getting myself into the frame of mind to race," Simon Evans said today.
"I think there will be a lot of risks taken and whoever comes out the other end intact will take the rally and probably the championship, so as is often the case in Melbourne it'll be a battle to the end!"
Team mate, Bates also will throw caution to the wind in an attempt to win his fourth national championship.
"It's the last rally of the year so you have got to go as hard and fast as you can," the popular veteran said.
"We'd love to get a Toyota one-two in the championship but first and foremost I'll be pushing for the win and Dean is right behind us so it'll be an extremely tough and close rally."
Leading privateer Dean Herridge has taken it right up to factory teams throughout the year and remains firmly in the hunt after another strong result in South Australia.
"We really have nothing to lose heading into this final round and we are in great form as a team so it is going to be an absolute cracker of an event," Dean Herridge said as he prepares to head over to Japan for the World Rally Championship (WRC) event for Subaru Japan.
"We have plenty of rallying between now and Melbourne including the WRC round in Japan and Targa West over here in WA, so we'll be ready for anything once we get to Melbourne.
"Simon and Scott should be quick at their home event, but we have been fast in recent rallies so we are in form at the right time."
Spectators are encouraged to purchase their tickets early to ensure they don't miss out on all the action in Melbourne's outer-east as the Yarra Valley comes alive with rally action.
"Scott (Pedder) and I are locals and it definitely helps to have the crowd there to spur you on, Melbourne is always a tough rally so hopefully the crowd will be out there cheering us on and helping to get me over the line," Evans said.
The 2006 NGK Rally of Melbourne will for the first time begin along the NewQuay Promenade at Docklands for the ceremonial start on 22nd September from 6.00pm.
Over 60 rally cars and drivers will be on display along the picturesque and crowd friendly NewQuay promenade before setting off on the final championship deciding rally of the 2006 NEC Australian Rally Championship, through 16 special stages held over two, action packed days. 
Full details regarding ticketing, corporate hospitality and accommodation for the spectacular season finale can be found at the event's new look website, www.rallyofmelbourne.com.au.

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