Double celebration for Toyota at Coffs Coast Rally
- 17th November 2008, 9:57am
Bates cruised to seventh position in both Heats of the rally to easily claim the required points he needed to become just the third person ever to win four or more ARC Drivers' titles.
In a performance reminiscent of Australia's three-time Formula 1 World Champion, Jack Brabham, Bates won the title in an S2000-spec Corolla that he helped build - a rare feat in modern motorsport.
Bates has secured 32 outright ARC wins in a career spanning more than 20 years and has also made 14 appearances in the World Rally Championship and finished third in the 1997 International Race of Champions.
Since winning his first ARC title in 1993, TRD boss Bates has also recorded outright victory in Targa Tasmania, six Bathurst 12-hour class wins and has sat on pole at the Bathurst 1000.
Team-mate and two-time champion, Simon Evans claimed Heat 1 in convincing fashion and was headed for a clean-sweep of the Coffs Harbour-based event until a transmission problem sidelined him for three stages, dropping him to fourth outright.
It was a disappointing end to a season full of bad luck for the defending champion, but as ever, Evans was philosophical about his Heat 2 issue and is determined to bounce back in season 2009.
Young Victorian privateer Glen Raymond capped his debut season in an ex-TRD Corolla with a career-best second place in Heat 2 of the Coffs Coast Rally - a results that saw him claim third overall.
TRD guest driver Paul Gover achieved his goal of a top-10 finish with 10th place in Heat 2, a worthy conclusion to a measured driver in challenging conditions.
Team TRD Rally now takes a well-deserved break until the 2009 ARC season begins earlier than usual with the Burnie-based, all-tarmac Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge, scheduled for 14-15 February.
Simon Evans, Toyota Corolla S2000 - Car #1:
"Although the year has been a challenging one you can always bet on the sun rising and me being quick. The S2000 Corolla was just awesome and has so much potential that we are just starting to unlock - this year is just the tip of the iceberg. But, we do need to work hard in the off-season because our goal this year was 1-2 in the championship and we didn't quite get there. I would like to thank the team as it's been great fun despite the challenges we've faced. Most of all I would like to thank Sue; she has done it hard this year balancing motherhood, co-driving and running the family business. I am really happy for Neal and Coral - they have done what was required to win the title. It was also very good to see my brother win his first rally. Eli did well in changing conditions, brought it home in top position and didn't let things get to him."
Neal Bates, Toyota Corolla S2000 - Car #2:
"Obviously I am incredibly happy to win a fourth title. I think it will take a while for what we have achieved to actually set in as this weekend was very difficult. Yesterday was very stressful and the whole build-up has been so busy with friends, relatives and media. With the car essentially in its infancy, we have more work to do and I am of course disappointed with what happened to Simon today. However, the S2000 Corolla has been competitive since its debut and I have finished every rally I've started in it so it is getting there. Overall, it is a big achievement to win another manufacturers' title and for Coral and I to win again 13 years since our last one. I don't get too carried away with having the number one on the door, but I am pretty sure the title win will sink in when it's finally on the car - Coral and I will be very happy to see that and I am happy to have my name in the history books."
Glen Raymond, Toyota Corolla Group N (P) - Car #7:
"It was great this year to be matching stage times with people I look up to like Neal and Simon. We have also started doing pre-event testing and it has helped me a lot. Coming into this year the team had no expectations, though we have been improving at every event and we will take what we have learnt into next season. If we can keep improving then next season looks promising. Toyota's famous reliability has also helped and I must thank the TRD team who have assisted us a lot. Being involved with a company that has won the manufacturers' title has only brought good things."
Australian Rally Championship
Final Championship Standings:
1) Neal Bates - Toyota Corolla S2000 - 445 points
2) Eli Evans - Subaru Impreza WRX - 337
3) Simon Evans - Toyota Corolla S2000 - 320
4) Spencer Lowndes - Mitsubishi Lancer EVO - 284
5) Glen Raymond - Toyota Corolla Group N (P) - 246
6) Michael Guest - Subaru Impreza WRX - 194
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