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Pirtek / LWR driver Michael Guest has finished in sixth place in Heat 1 of the Coffs Coast Rally today, round six of the Australian Rally Championship.

After a slow start in dry and dusty conditions, Guest and co-driver, David Green, fitted harder compound tyres to their Subaru Impreza WRX STi, and were immediately back near the pace of the front runners.

Having been as low as 11th after the first three stages, the Lake Macquarie driver stormed back through the field to take sixth, three places ahead of newly crowned Australian Rally Champion Neal Bates.

After rain leading up to the final round of the national championship, hot and windy conditions greeted crews for today’s nine stages, held in the hardwood forests around Coffs Harbour.

A lack of grip hampered Guest and his Les Walkden Rallying-prepared Subaru early in the day, but their speed improved considerably after the first service break.

“While we struggled for grip, I really had a lack of confidence on the first few stages,” Guest admitted.

“This is my first gravel rally since the big crash we had in South Australia in August, and the first time I’ve driven a left-hand drive car on gravel for some time, so it’s all taken a bit of getting used to.

“After the first service we went for a harder tyre with a more open pattern, and that seemed to work a lot better.”

Rain on the final two stages made conditions treacherous for crews, but Guest showed the consistency and experience that has seen him compete in the World Rally Championship. While others backed off to ensure they made it to the finish, Guest pushed hard and moved up several places in the process.

“To be honest, I really struggled today, which is disappointing,” Guest added. “But the car has come through the day unscathed and I’m confident of being in a better position to push for third or fourth place tomorrow.

“A lot will depend on the weather. It’s been really hot and sticky today – about as close to an Asian rally as you’d ever get. If it rains tomorrow then it should be to our advantage, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

The Heat was won by Toyota driver and 2007 Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans, but his team-mate, Neal Bates, finished in ninth place, giving the Canberra driver enough points to secure his fourth national title.

British driver, Guy Wilks, took a remarkable second place in his front-wheel drive Honda Civic Type R, 10 seconds clear of Eli Evans in a Subaru.

Tomorrow sees a further 112km of competitive driving, and with this being the final event of the season, Guest and Green are determined to push hard and move even further up the leader board.

Coffs Coast Rally, Heat 1 results:

1. S. Evans / S. Evans, Toyota Corolla S2000, 1h05m07.5s
2. G. Wilks / B. Pugh, Honda Civic Type R, +30.1s (diff. to leader)
3. E. Evans / C. Murphy, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +40.1s
4. N. Quinn / B. Atkinson, Mitsubsihi Lancer Evo V, +1m21.4s
5. M. Boaden / H. Cheers, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, +1m39.9s
6. M. Guest / D. Green, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +2m19.5s

Photo: Hubble Photographix

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