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Four-time national rally champions Neal Bates and Coral Taylor will compete in the southern hemisphere's biggest classic rally competition this weekend.

The duo will enter their 1980 Toyota Celica RA40 in the International Classic category of New Zealand's Rally Otago, which boasts a staggering 42 entries − 20 more than the main NZ Rally Championship competitors.

Former world rally champion Miki Biasion will also be among them, driving a classic Porsche 911 alongside long-time co-driver Fabrizia Pons.

Other legends to have competed in the event include Ari Vatanen, Juha Kankkunen, Hannu Mikkola, Bjorn Waldegard and Jimmy McRae.

Bates said he wanted to enter Rally Otago even before he began building the Celica in his Canberra-based race preparation workshop.

"This is an amazing rally," Bates said. "It's got some of the best roads in the world and it will be a great test for us against such quality opposition and a massive field.

"We tested the car earlier in the week on the roads here and it ran perfectly, so we can't wait to get going on Saturday."

Bates and Taylor's previous rallying appearance in the country was in 1997 at Rally New Zealand - a WRC event - in which they finished sixth aboard a Toyota Celica GT-Four.

Taylor said she was excited at the prospect of competing on the gravel roads in and around Dunedin.

"It will be great fun but we'll be need to be on our toes, as we are only able to do a one-pass recce before the rally actually starts," she said.

"That makes the job of writing pace notes more challenging, but we are feeling really confident about doing well here and showing what the Celica can do."

Bates' and Taylor's participation in Rally Otago means they will miss Rally Perth, the second round of the Australian Rally Championship.

The duo will return to the ARC for Rally SA on May 24 to 26.

Caption: Neal Bates and Coral Taylor testing their Toyota Celica ahead of this weekend's Otago Classic Rally. Photo: John Kilpatrick. 

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