End of an era for Toyota
- 16th February 2009, 1:19pm
Bates held off a late charge from two-time champion Evans to claim a 12.5 second overall win across the three days of competition in the all-tarmac rally.
"Firstly I am very happy to end this weekend of mixed emotions with a win," Bates said.
"We will do whatever we can to continue to run in the championship, and this is obviously the perfect start. I have found it really hard to concentrate given everything that has been going on, but I am very pleased with how we performed.
"It is the perfect way to start a championship and hopefully it will springboard us into some support that will keep us going in the future. We have proven we have the cars and the team to do the job, now we just need the support in place to make it all work.
"This is the end of 19 years of happy and successful memories. Most people want to go to work every day of their life and be happy, but I have spent the 19 years driving to work pinching myself. I couldn't have asked for more than that."
The 1-2 mirrored Toyota's result in 2008's inaugural Tasmanian tarmac event and provided a fitting end to Toyota's long and distinguished involvement in the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) where it has won six drivers' titles and three manufacturers' crowns.
Bates' result is the perfect springboard into a new era for his Neal Bates Motorsport team. Another faultless weekend of running for both Corolla S2000s shows what his team can bring to any potential backers.
The two locally-developed Corollas dominated the entire event, claiming 13 of the 16 competitive stages, with Bates winning eight and Evans three.
"Today was a great result and I just kept focussing on consistency and putting into practice all the things I learnt over the weekend," Evans said.
"Neal and I were still comparing times after the last stage as it was so close between us. When you can take wins off Neal Bates on tarmac you know you are starting to get there.
"I did a lot of maturing with Toyota and I wouldn't have been the driver I am today that without the experiences I have had with this team. I look back at it fondly as a lot of good times," Evans said.
"Sue and I feel honoured to have been a part of it. It's great to look back and say 'I won two championships with that team'. It is sad to end, but I am glad we have done so with a 1-2 in the rally. It is what the team and Toyota deserved."
Bates has confirmed he will contest the ARC's second round, his home event in Canberra, while Evans announced he will join his brother Eli to form a two-car Evans Motorsport team.
Australian Rally Championship
1) Neal Bates - Toyota Corolla S2000 1h34m41.9s
2) Simon Evans - Toyota Corolla S2000 +12.7s
3) Eli Evans - Subaru Impreza WRX +32.8s
4) Brendan Reeves - Subaru Impreza WRX +2m34.6s
5) Glen Raymond - Toyota Corolla Group N (P) +2m40.5s
6) Dean Herridge - Subaru Impreza WRX +3m24.6s
Australian Rally Championship
1) Neal Bates - Toyota Corolla S2000 - 78 points
2) Simon Evans - Toyota Corolla S2000 - 71 points
3) Eli Evans - Subaru Impreza WRX - 60 points
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