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A bumper, high-quality entry list promises one of the hottest contests in years when the 2006 Coates Rally Queensland hosts round three of the NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship on the Sunshine Coast on 16-18 June.

Organisers announced today a final field of 66 starters, including official “factory” teams representing Toyota, Mitsubishi and Ford, Subaru’s top privateer and the current national rally champion of China chasing outright honours, leading local teams in the State championship, and a strong contingent of Classic entrants.

Celebrating its move this year to a new base in the Maroochy Shire, about 90 kilometres north of Brisbane, the rally will have its official start amid an open-air entertainment and food festival on Mooloolaba Beach Esplanade on Friday night 16 June.

From Saturday morning, the teams will tackle almost 200 kms of competitive stages in the Imbil State Forest, south of Gympie, before the finish at Mooloolaba on Sunday afternoon.

Coates Rally Queensland Event Director Errol Bailey predicts a fierce pace in the forests for the Australian championship, Queensland championship and Classic sections of the rally.

“This is a strong field across all classes, but in particular the line-up of 26 cars for the national championship is absolutely top-class,” Bailey said today.

“The series leaders Simon and Sue Evans are seeded number one in their Toyota Corolla Sportivo and have told me they’re determined to make up for missing the win here last year.

“Their Toyota Racing Development team leader Neal Bates is also back with co-driver Coral Taylor, Ford is competing officially for the first time in 25 years with a Focus for Michael Guest and Mark Stacey, Mitsubishi Ralliart has Scott Pedder and Glen Weston and Subaru will be represented by their ex-factory driver Dean Herridge, with Bill Hayes.”

Bailey confirmed Chinese rally champion Xu Lang would run a Mitsubishi Lancer, co-driven by Dale Moscatt, former partner to Subaru’s multiple Australian champion Cody Crocker.

“Xu Lang is said to be entering to gain experience, but he drove extremely well in round two in Western Australia recently and I’m sure he’ll be well worth watching in Queensland,” he said.

Queenslanders figure strongly in the entry list, with Glen Weston and Mark Stacey in co-driver roles and Stewart Reid, in an ex-works Toyota, the highest-seeded local driver in the Privateers Cup. John Goasdoue, driving a Subaru, is the top-seeded Queenslander in the BP Ultimate Challenge for level-two privateers.

A further 27 cars are entered for the combined rounds two and three of the City Subaru Queensland Rally Championship, which this year will include safari-type vehicles such as Robert Chapman’s twin–turbocharged Mitsubishi Pajero.

While the ARC and QRC cars will set the pace on Imbil’s 19 tight and demanding special stages, entries in the Classic competition will be a nostalgic reminder of great drivers, cars and events of the past.

The entry list includes John Spencer’s Datsun 1600, winner of the Classic Adelaide Rally, Keith Callinan’s Round Australia Holden Commodore and Mike Bailey’s Lotus Cortina, making its competition debut after being discovered in run-down condition in Ireland.

Errol Bailey said teams had welcomed the rally’s move to the new base in Maroochy and new headquarters at Novotel Twin Waters Resort.

“This is our 11th year on the Sunshine Coast and a good time to take the next step with one of the region’s biggest annual sporting events,” he said.

“The big number of entries proves the move has been popular with teams, who are looking forward to enjoying the beaches, restaurants and other tourist attractions during their spare time, as well as a shorter drive to the forestry stages.”

The teams will start arriving from Monday to conduct testing, reconnaiscance, vehicle preparation and promotional activities before the event.

As well as Coates Rally Queensland, Maroochy Shire hosts a number of major national and international sports events. Including the Australian PGA Golf Championship, Mooloolaba Triathlon, Australian Road Cycling Championship and Australian Etchells Winter Championships.

The 2006 Coates Rally Queensland has received financial assistance under the Queensland Events Regional Development Program, a State Government initiative designed to take unique and creative events to their full potential in order to increase local economic activity and development.

Holden official vehicles for the rally will be provided by Holden Ltd, Esanda and Q Fleet.

FAST FACTS

TICKETS, SPECTATOR INFORMATION

Tickets for Imbil special stages – (Eftpos available) Adult $25 daily, $40 weekend, family (2 adults, 2 children) $50 weekend, concessions $15 daily. Buy at ticket booth at Mooloolaba start on Friday, Imbil Showgrounds service park and spectator park gate Saturday and Sunday. Tickets include free bus from showgrounds to spectator park at 10 am and 12.30 pm and return at 3.30 pm, plus free shuttle bus to all spectator points. Entry is free to the start and finish at Mooloolaba.

Times – Friday: from 6 pm, official start celebrations, including car display, autographs, driver presentations, food and entertainment at Mooloolaba Beach Esplanade; first car leaves at 8.30 pm. Saturday: 9 am, first car leaves Imbil Showgrounds service park for forestry stages; 9.23 am, heat one, special stage one starts. Sunday: 7.57 am, first car leaves Imbil Showground service park for forestry stages; 8.20 am, special stage 11 (first of heat two) starts; 3.45 pm, official finish at Mooloolaba Esplanade.
Directions to Imbil, take Imbil turn-off from Bruce Highway approx. 23 kms south of Gympie.

Spectator guide – free official guide in Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper on Thursday 15 June.

WHAT’S NEWS IN 2006

Coates Rally Queensland moves to Maroochy Shire, with event headquarters, teams, officials and media accommodation, parc ferme and the presentation dinner at Novotel Twin Waters Resort.

Being staged two weeks later than last year, Coates Rally Queensland is Round 3 of the 2006 series, instead of Round 2.

This year’s Coates Rally Queensland is the 11th since the event moved to the Sunshine Coast. It’s the longest-running State round on the national rally calendar, hosted by Brisbane Sporting Car Club for the 35th time. BSCC also has a proud record as Queensland’s premier rally organiser for 53 years.
BSCC’s most famous member is Gold Coaster Chris Atkinson. Since winning the 2004 Rally Queensland, Atkinson has become a Subaru factory driver and contender for the World Rally Championship.

Under a new naming rights sponsorship, the series becomes the NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship for 2006 and beyond.

The second-tier competition for privateer teams is now the BP Ultimate Challenge. BP Ultimate 98 RON petrol will be the control fuel for the BP Ultimate Challenge, RS Cup and F16 class. (Elf will continue to supply 102 octane fuel for outright ARC competitors.)

Ford returns as an entrant after a 25-year absence, with a specially-built, rear-drive Focus for driver Michael Guest and co-driver Mark Stacey. Unusually, Pirtek Rally Team Ford is using Korean Hankook tyres.

The official Subaru Rally Team Australia has departed the series after winning 10 championships, but the competition remains strong between Pirtek Rally Team Ford, Toyota Team Racing and Team Mitsubishi Ralliart. A host of to p privateers includes several Subaru drivers and Queensland ace Stewart Reid, who has bought an ex-works Toyota Corolla Sportivo.

After two of six rounds in the 2006 drivers’ championship, standings are – 73 points Simon Evans (Toyota), 68 Neal Bates (Toyota), 56 Dean Herridge (Subaru), 41 Scott Pedder (Mitsubishi), 30 Darren Windus (Subaru).

REMEMBER 2005?

The 2005 Coates Rally Queensland was one of the most enthralling on record. Subaru’s Cody Crocker, with Dale Moscatt, won both heats and extended his championship lead, but it was not an easy weekend. On Saturday, Bates and Evans suffered identical mystery engine problems from the first stage – diagnosed later as slipped timing belts after Bates sportingly withdrew from the heat to allow the crew to concentrate on rectifying Evans’ car.
Evans resumed at blistering pace, winning two stages, while Scott Pedder, after winning stage one, recovered from rolling his Lancer to finish third. On Sunday, Crocker and Evans traded stage wins, but the Subaru squeezed ahead by just 13.4 seconds at the finish, with Bates third. Pedder retired after hitting a tree. Overall, it was Crocker, Evans and Herridge (Subaru).
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