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The Pirtek Rally Team has completed the final round of the NEC Australian Rally Championship with a solid performance at the NGK Rally of Melbourne.

Rick Bates showed why he is one of Australia's most versatile drivers with 12th placing in leg #1 and 11th in leg #2.

Substituting for regular driver Michael Guest, Bates quickly adapted to the rear-wheel-drive Focus settling into a steady rhythm throughout the opening leg.

Over the dry and dusty roads Bates grew in confidence to set quicker times in the afternoon stages.

The skies opened in leg #2, making it a much tougher ask on the slippery roads.

Despite a few spins, Bates and co-driver Mark Stacey completed all the competitive sections with no major issues.

"I have really enjoyed the experience this weekend," said Rick Bates.

"The guys have been awesome to work with and having Michael around to give me further information on driving the car made things a lot more comfortable.

"There was a lot to take in this week, both in terms of the car and the Hankook tyres. On both accounts I was very pleased.

"I certainly got the full experience with the contrasting weather conditions over both days. It would have been nice to have fine conditions during leg #2, as my confidence in the Focus would have been a lot better.

"A top-10 result would have been a just reward, but the weather really worked against us. We had a couple of moments today that also added some time, but overall it was a good weekend."

Technical Director Steve Hoinville was pleased with the performance of Bates, the car and the team.

"Going into this event we had plenty of challenges and we met everyone one of them," said Hoinville.

"Rick did a fantastic job; he settled into the pace of the Focus very quickly and worked very well with the team.

"The strength of the car was again evident this weekend. Despite the changing conditions we had no major technical issues throughout the event.

"The crew again were fantastic. They prepared the car well and every service went to plan - no surprises. The cold and wet conditions they had to work under today were far from pleasant, but again they got stuck into it.

"Throughout the changing conditions we had to make some tricky tyre choices. The Hankook tyres once again stood up to the challenge. We had no issues and the wear rate was very good.

"Having a quick look back over the year we have come a long way. We didn't finish either day in Canberra, but since then we have failed to finish just one day. That's a record of nine completed legs. Considering that this was development year, we are more than pleased with that."

Ford Racing Manager Ray Price summed up the year.

"We said back in March that we had plenty of challenges ahead of us in the Australian Rally Championship and it's certainly proved the case throughout the season," said Price.

"Melbourne really showed how big a challenge it can be. To complete the rally just outside the top-10 is a credit to all those involved.

"The Focus has improved throughout the season where we now have a very strong package.

"We'll now sit down and take stock, then make plans for the future direction of the program."
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