Bates claims impressive Heat 1 victory
- 21st June 2008, 7:07pm
Three-time Australian Rally Champions Bates, and co-driver Coral Taylor, started the 35 kilometre final competitive stage 3.6 seconds behind Subaru driver Eli Evans, but emerged at the finish almost 68 seconds in front and with an extended lead in the 2008 Australian Rally Championship (ARC).
However, the day’s most dramatic news was the departure of Bates’ Toyota Racing Development team-mates Simon and Sue Evans in a high-speed “off” on special stage seven, while leading the rally.
The husband and wife crew, both 36, were treated on scene before being transported to hospital by ambulance for precautionary checks.
Sue Evans complained of neck and back pain and Simon Evans of a sore foot.
The incident handed the lead to Simon’s 24-year-old brother, Eli, and co-driver Chris Murphy.
The younger Evans lost his chance for a maiden heat win on the final stage in a brush with an earth bank, which punctured a tyre and forced him to complete 22 kms on a bare wheel rim.
Subaru privateer Michael Guest was also able to leapfrog Evans and claim second place in the heat, which had begun last night with the Pacific Ford Shootout Super-Special stages at Maroochy Showgrounds.
Toyota driver Stewart Reid, with Anthony McLoughlan, finished an impressive fourth and highest-placed Queenslander.
The rally, round three of the ARC, continues with Heat Two tomorrow morning and finishes at Imbil at 3.30 pm after a further eight stages.
Bates was delighted with his heat win, despite his team-mate’s misfortune.
“Not bad for an old guy,” he joked. “Actually, we had a alternator problem half-way through the last stage and from then on went as fast as we could, but making sure we finished.”
Evans phoned from the hospital to congratulate Bates, but the pain of another heat retirement this season was probably greater than that of his injured toe.
The defending champion, unbeaten in any heat or round last season, suffered a mechanical failure in his Toyota Corolla S2000 in this year’s first round in Western Australia and hit a kangaroo on round two in Canberra.
He started this rally clearly determined to overhaul Bates’ championship lead, winning the shootout and the first three stages today.
Among other fancied runners, West Australian Darren Windus was delayed with a spin and shock absorber damage.
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