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Neal Bates and Coral Taylor, driving the Toyota Corolla S2000, have finished Leg 2 of Rally Tasmania as decisive winners.

Bates, an acknowledged tarmac expert, drove flawlessly today and although driving in the ARC, matched and finished only 0.3 seconds behind the overall rally leader Tony Quinn in a Nissan GTR R35.

Bates did not have it all his own way with Tankformers Subaru driver, Eli Evans, opening his account some 0.3 seconds faster than Bates on the day’s opening stage.

Bates’ team mate, in his swansong drive for Toyota was next best, claiming he was super happy with the setup for the day.

Tyres would prove to be the test of the best during the passing of the stages with hot mix and coarse chip the surface to contend with, and a number of crews struggled with tyre wear.
Glen Raymond in the Raymond Partner’s Toyota Group N (P) Corolla claimed at the Waratah service, “We’ve fried our tyres.”

The toll of back-to-back 25 km stages with fast flowing and tight twisty sections destroyed the medium compound semi-racing slicks.

Justin Dowell in the Activ Seal Lancer Evo 9 broke his gearbox, leaving only fifth gear. Dowell said, “It’s a new gearbox so that’s a bit disappointing.”

The team replaced the gearbox before the Savage River stages, only to have the selectors break again. He will rejoin tomorrow.

Brendan Reeves enjoyed his return to the ARC in the LWR Subaru. “I have to learn again how to drive on tarmac and it’s a fine line to disaster out there. I have seen some enormous skids on bumps and crests so a few crews have had moments before us.”

On the last stage, Reeves had the front left tyre go flat at high speed and whilst he kept control, it ripped off the front guard.

Dean Herridge was fresh from Targa West but could not match the pace of the front runners. It’s a matter of budget if he is to contest any other rounds of the ARC.

Spencer Lowndes suffered early in the day with a turbo pipe blowing off.  He recovered to finish seventh for the day.

Crews not so lucky to finish today were Barry Kirk in the Mazda RX-7 with mechanical failure, and Craig Brooks in the Subaru Impreza C spec, going off the road and down an embankment on Savage River East. Both crews are OK.

At the Waratah service, Barney Hogan, driving the Allquip Ford Fiesta commented:
“We would love more power but that’s not the point of this car.” Hogan had entered the car in the ARC’s new Eco challenge class. Savage River was to claim the new car with a major rollover, damaging it severely.

The ARC for 2009 has a new TV provider in Black Magic under the direction of experienced motorsport producer Paul Mullan. The crew have done a fantastic job today, interviewing all the ARC crews for the upcoming 1 hour TV special to be shown on Network 10.

Leg 3 gets underway with the Paloma Dam stage at 9am tomorrow. 110 km of some of the best tarmac roads anywhere will decide the overall winner of the first round of the Australian Rally Championship.

It’s sure to be a sad day for the Toyota Works team. Nineteen years of continuous support for the Neal Bates team will come to an end tomorrow afternoon.

The rally will conclude in Burnie where a gala concert in aid of the Victorian Bushfire appeal will be held.

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