Bates wins nail-biting Rally Queensland
- 22nd June 2008, 7:32pm
Toyota's Neal Bates and Coral Taylor survived last-minute dramas to score a nail-biting coates Rally Queensland win and a hat-trick of Australian Rally Championship rounds on the Sunshine Coast today.
After winning Heat One yesterday, the Toyota Corolla S2000 pair were on course to do it again in Heat Two until a mistake by Bates punctured a tyre on the second-last stage of the weekend.
In a blink, Bates conceded Subaru privateers Eli Evans and Chris Murphy their maiden heat win and second place to Michael Guest/David Green, also Subaru-mounted.
The extraordinary result at the end of competition was that Bates and Evans were tied on 70 points for the weekend until the Toyota driver was awarded a bonus point under the championship rules for winning the most stages.
Bates, a three-time champion in the nineties, has now won the first three of the 2008 season’s scheduled six rounds and opened a points lead that will be difficult to run down.
Certainly his teammate and reigning champion Simon Evans has a long fight back after a high-speed crash yesterday that put him and his co-driver wife Sue out of the rally and in hospital for several hours’ medical observation. It was the second time this season Evans was forced to withdraw.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” Bates said at the podium presentation this afternoon at the service park in the showgrounds of picturesque Imbil township, in the Mary Valley.
“We got a puncture on the last stage – it was my mistake – and the spare I put on for the next stage wasn’t the right one. And on the last stage we also had a slow puncture.
“It was an unbelievably tough rally for cars, drivers and co-drivers. Anyone who got through to the end would feel like they’ve really done a rally.”
Eli Evans’ superb performance throughout the weekend brought the long-awaited reward of his first heat victory in the Australian Rally Championship.
He was in the top three for all but two of the weekend’s 16 stages and won three. Bates won six and Simon Evans – Eli’s older brother – won four.
After 121 kilometres of rallying today, the gap from Evans to Guest was just 18.7 seconds, while Bates followed in a further 19.5 sec.
“It came down to the wire, but I have to thank Neal for handing me the win,” said Evans, 24.
“It’s my first one so I’m very excited. It’s just so competitive – we’ve got Toyotas and Subarus (on the podium) and it came down to seconds over 200 kilometres.”
Those offering congratulations included Simon Evans, who appeared at the finish with only a bruised toe to show for his frightening accident.
"I'm really happy for him today. While the win was within reach, it's another box that Eli's now ticked in the process of becoming a champion,” Evans said.
“First comes a stage win, then a heat win, then a round win and soon enough he'll be contending for the title."
Guest was another who produced a mighty effort today. He won two stages, including the event’s signature final stage, the aptly-named 35 km Phat Lady.
Spencer Lowndes (Mitsubishi), Glen Raymond (Toyota) and Nathan Quinn (Mitsubishi) followed the three leaders in Heat Two.
Leading Queenslander Stewart Reid suffered a heartbreaking gearbox problem on the final stage while challenging Lowndes for fourth spot.
Darren Windus started strongly with a win on the first stage today, but later retired his Britek-run Ford Fiesta S2000 with mechanical problems.
Nathan Quinn took out the Queensland Rally Championship round within coates Rally Queensland, having won heats with co-driver Ben Atkinson.
Network Ten’s one-hour coverage of coates Rally Queensland will be shown on Sunday 6 July from 12 midday.
Results Heat Two (Provisional):
Eli Evans/Chris Murphy (Subaru Impreza STi) total time taken 1 hour 12 minutes 34.4 seconds
Michael Guest/David Green (Subaru Impreza STi) 1:12:53.1
Neal Bates/Coral Taylor (Toyota Corolla S2000) 1:13:12.6
Spencer Lowndes/Chris Randell (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) 1:13:28.2
Glen Raymond/Matt Raymond (Toyota Corolla Grp N-P) 1:14:11.6
Championship points after Round 3, Heat 2 (Provisional)
Neal Bates 217
Eli Evans 156
Spencer Lowndes 132
Michael Guest 123
Simon Evans 112
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