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Former Daihatsu and Toyota works driver, Rick Bates, will drive Ford’s rear-wheel drive Focus in next week’s Rally of Melbourne.

Although the entry list will not be released until 10am tomorrow morning (September 13), RallySport Magazine believe that Bates will replace regular driver, Michael Guest, who has been in the spotlight after losing his licence for speeding just before the South Australian round of the ARC.

Neither Ford, nor the Rally of Melbourne, would confirm or deny the claims, but RallySport Magazine has been told by a number of reliable sources that the Canberra driving instructor will drive the car. RallySport Magazine tried contacting Bates today, but have so far had no reply.

A former ARC Formula 2 champion at the wheel of a Charade, Bates partnered twin brother, Neal, when the Group N (P) Corollas made their debut in 2003. He has not contested the Australian Rally Championship since that time.

However, he has kept up his skill behind the wheel by competing regularly in marathon events, most recently in the Carrera Sudamericana Rally where he finished second.

It is believed Guest will drive the Focus again in 2007, however the dissent over his appearance in the Rally of South Australia is believed to be the reason behind him not driving in next week’s Rally of Melbourne.

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