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Neal Bates and Coral Taylor gave their restored 1980 Toyota Celica RA40 the perfect debut on the weekend, with class victory in the opening round of the 2012 Australian Rally Championship at Rally Calder.

The four-time ARC championship-winning duo battled difficult weather and kept the Porsche 911 of Jeff David and Grant Geelan at bay to take top honours in the Australian Classic Rally Challenge category, run for pre-1986 rally cars.

Bates said the rear-wheel-drive Celica did not miss a beat in the mixed-surface event, held on and around the Calder Park racing circuit near Melbourne.

"From the moment we arrived at Calder last week the car performed superbly and was a real pleasure to drive even in such wet conditions," Bates said.

"We only put it through one real shakedown test last week in Canberra but throughout all the stages we didn't have an issue with it at all.

"The car really is something special both to look at and to drive - the guys did a beautiful job building it and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."

Rally Calder also marked Bates' and Taylor's return to competition as a duo after a two-and-a-half year hiatus.

"We enjoyed every minute of the rally and being back amongst the ARC scene," Taylor said.

"It was especially enjoyable for us that everyone, including fans and fellow competitors, loved seeing and hearing the Celica perform.

"The car ticked every box throughout the weekend and we can't wait to run it on other rallies this year."

The next round of the 2012 ARC is the Quit Forest Rally in Western Australia at the end of March.
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