Rally crews from around the country are preparing for the southernmost round of the NEC Australian Rally Championship (NEC ARC), the Subaru Safari Tasmania event held from July 14th to 16th.

The two-car Toyota Racing Development (TRD) team of Simon Evans and Neal Bates head a list of over twenty interstate crews who will cross Bass Strait to compete in the fourth round of the NEC ARC, based around Geeveston in the State's south.

Evans has won the last two rounds of the championship and holds a 12 point series lead over team mate Neal Bates, but now he heads to an event that has brought more than his share of bad luck in recent years.

Last year Evans rolled his Corolla out of the lead in the first heat, and in 2004 suffered a broken leg after crashing heavily on the closing stages of the event.

"It's one of those events that when it is wet it can still be quite grippy, but the slippery spots are hard to pick and can catch you out." Evans said.

West Australian privateer Dean Herridge currently sits third in the championship, just 9 points ahead of fourth-placed Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Scott Pedder.

Despite being one of the fastest drivers at recent rounds, Pedder's pace has been overshadowed by mechanical concerns and bad luck.

He recently took his first heat win of the season in Queensland and now returns to the Tasmanian event confident he can improve on his runner-up result in 2005.

"Tasmania is a great driver's rally, and the colder wetter events will suit our Pirelli tyres better so I don't see why we can't continue our pace at this event." Pedder said.

The Pirtek Rally Team's Ford Focus will sport a new-look rear wing in Tasmania, an addition the team hopes will provide an improvement in aerodynamic stability over the fast and flowing roads of the Huon Valley.
"The Focus looks great with the new wing, but importantly for me it gives us greater confidence to attack the high-speed sections," said driver Michael Guest, who will make his Tasmanian debut for the new Ford team.

Simon Jansen leads the local Tasmanian contingent, while NEC ARC regulars Darren Windus, Stewart Reid and Jack Monkhouse are part of a quality field that will race for maximum privateer points. 

Plenty of young talent will be on show in the BP Ultimate Challenge, including Jesse Robison, Will Orders, John Murray Junior and young Victorian female driver Kira Douglas.

The 2006 Subaru Safari Tasmania will kick-off with a free-to-see Ceremonial Start on Elizabeth Street in North Hobart on Friday July 14 from 7pm.

The 2006 course, held within the stunning Southern Forests of the Huon Valley, is made up of approximately 180 of competitive kilometres, held over two separate competition heats over Saturday July 15 and Sunday July 16.

Spectators can see all the rally action from five separate vantage points located within the Huon Valley including one at the Geeveston Super Special Stage at the Kermandie Oval.

Highlighted vision from the pre-event shakedown and Heats One and Two will be available from Network Ten Sydney at 1600EST on Friday July 14, Saturday July 15 and Sunday July 16.

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