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The recent announcement by Toyota Motorsport that they will begin developing an R3 spec rally car based on the rear-wheel drive GT86 platform is exciting news for rally fans and drivers around the world.

And one of those watching even more keenly than most will be Neal Bates, whose long-standing relationship with Toyota Australia has seen him rally turbo-charged Celica GT-Four’s, Corolla’s in World Rally Car, Group N (P) and Super 2000 trim and more recently a classic rear-wheel drive RA40 Celica.
 
So with an international spec rally car in the works, a car that would slot nicely into the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship, does Neal believe this could be the ideal opening for Toyota Australia to return to the local rally scene?
 
“I can’t answer on their behalf (Toyota Australia), they’ve seen the press release I’m sure but they didn’t ring me up saying ‘let’s build a car’ or anything,” said Bates when quizzed on the topic at the recent Rally Victoria.
 
“I think it will be a very exciting car. I’m not sure if a rear-wheel drive can beat a front-wheel drive, but I know people will love both driving it and watching it, and I’m sure they will sell like hot cakes,” he added.
 
The GT86 platform, jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru, and featuring a normally aspirated, four-cylinder boxer engine powering the rear wheels, has been a sales success since it’s debut last year.
 
Both the Toyota GT86 and the equivalent Subaru BRZ, technically identical with minor visual differences between the models, have become ideal platforms for after-market tuning houses with Bates’ own company offering power and performance upgrades to the standard model.
 
“I’ve known about it for a little bit,” said Bates of the rally spec GT86 announcement by Toyota Motorsport. “I have a very keen interest in the car and I’ll be very interested to see how it’s done when it’s released and go from there.”
 
Asked if he’d look to develop a rally going GT86 himself if Toyota Australia weren’t interested Bates said: ““I don’t have the money for one of those, never say never, but there are no plans at the moment. From a business point of view it’s a possibility.”
 
“If you’re aim isn’t to get into the World Rally Championship then they would be an incredibly fun car to drive!”
 
Interestingly Will Orders has been running a GT86 in the American Rally Championship this season, his version running an upgraded turbo-charged engine and a Hollinger 6-speed sequential gearbox.
 
While Toyota Australia supported drift racer Beau Yates has been developing his own GT86 for the Australian Drifting Grand Prix featuring a highly-tuned engine developing 350kw.

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