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Rally icon Neal Bates showered praise on the speed and reliability of his replica 1980 Toyota Celica RA40 after scoring another commanding victory in the Australian Rally Championship last weekend.

Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor dominated the classic category in Rally Australia, held in and around Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid-north coast.

Bates said the Celica ran faultlessly despite the long, punishing stages that included numerous jumps.

"I'm just stunned by how strong and fast this car is," Bates said. "Some of the stages were phenomenally hard on the car - we were airborne a lot - but it just kept responding and didn't miss a beat at all.

"We often ran as fast as some of the top ARC guys, which was a sign of how fast the car was."

Taylor said the rally had been the season's most challenging.

"As expected, the lack of rain up in these parts made conditions extremely dusty and the surface was very loose and powdery," she said.

"There were also some really long stages - one was nearly 50 kilometres - and the tyres were put to the absolute test but the car was excellent yet again."

Bates' and Taylor's Celica rally car is powered by a Toyota 3SGE Series 1 twin-cam 2.0-litre in-line four mated to an Australian-made Hollinger five-speed gearbox.

It also has state of the art safety features including full roll cage, seats and harnesses, and upgraded suspension.

Bates and Taylor will next compete at Rally Victoria, the final round of the Australian Rally Championship, on November 15 to 16.

Photo: Peter Whitten

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