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Neal Bates has lost the chance to claim back-to-back Australian Rally Championships after the alternator failed on his S2000 Corolla before the start of the final stage of Heat 1 of a rain-soaked Rally SA.

Reigning champion Bates held a 0.4s lead in a tight battle for second with Victorian rising star, Glen Raymond when the faulty alternator drained the car's battery whilst he and co-driver Coral Taylor waited for the start of the opening heat's final stage.

A longer than usual wait for the final stage to start was enough to drain the battery so low that the car could not be restarted before the final test, putting the four-time champions out of the event.

The retirement and Heat 1 victory by championship rivals, Simon and Sue Evans means Bates and Taylor cannot mathematically claim a fifth national crown.

The pair will contest the final heat of the 2009 season that gets underway tonight with another two runs on the Angaston Oval Super Special Stage before the championship concludes tomorrow afternoon with eight stages north-east of Adelaide.

Neal Bates - Car #1:  

"I can't begin to explain how I feel after today's retirement. It is really disappointing as although we had a problem with the alternator we would probably have been fine if the last stage wasn't held up. The delay kept the car idling and it eventually drained the battery. Heat 1 had been a struggle up to that point, but we could have got second place and still been an outside chance at the title. It has just been one of those years. The team is disappointed as they have all tried really hard in difficult circumstances. Tomorrow we have some new struts on the car so we are just going to call it a test session."
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