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Toyota Australia is set to become the first operation in the world to homologate the next-generation Corolla to the FIA's international Super 2000 rally regulations.

The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) team is currently in the initial stages of building the two new-shape vehicles at its Canberra base.

In the meantime, a current-shape Corolla has been converted from its previous Group N Prototype specification to Super 2000 specification for development and evaluation purposes.

TRD will introduce two brand new Super 2000 Corollas during Round 3 of this year's championship at the team's home event in Canberra in early June.

Prior to the introduction of the new cars, 2006 Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans will begin his title defence in the same Group N (P) car that he and his co-driver wife Sue drove to last year's title.

Neal Bates - three-time Australian champion, 2006 runner up and team owner - will begin the season in the development Super 2000 car (the current-shape vehicle converted from Group N(P)) with long-time co-driver Coral Taylor.

TRD is coming off its most successful season in the NEC Australian Rally Championship, with the Evans combination clinching their first championship and Bates and Taylor finishing close behind in second.

The team also delivered Toyota its first Australian Rally Manufacturers Championship in what was a dominant year.

"It's fantastic to be the first team in the world to homologate the new Corolla for Super 2000," Bates said.

"Super 2000 is a very exciting formula in international rallying and I think it can provide the base for a big future in the Australian championship.

"It allows manufacturers that don't sell two-litre turbo four-wheel drive production cars a chance to build a relatively inexpensive rally car that can compete to a Group N production-car level.

"It also provides us with more flexibility in where we run - we can use an S2000 car at World Rally Championship events in the Asia-Pacific region or in tarmac rallies if we choose; we were prevented from doing that in the Group N (P)."

2006 Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans has driven the development car in testing and is impressed with the results to date.

"It's a nice car to drive," said Evans. "It has the same power as our previous car, but is a lot lighter and has less torque.

"The light weight means you really hustle it through the corners, but it punishes mistakes because it is very difficult to regain momentum if you drop out of the powerband.

"Our tests have been encouraging so far - the times have been very competitive with the Group N (P) car.

"But the sound ... my word it sounds good - the way a rally car should sound!

"The new car is going to look sensational - we've got a stunning new livery and the new Corolla shape lends itself to a particularly tidy-looking rally car."
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