Team TRD Rally's Neal Bates has secured an historic fourth Australian Rally Championship following a measured drive in tough conditions in Heat 1 of the Coffs Coast Rally, on a day dominated by team-mate Simon Evans.

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Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor finished eighth for the Heat and scored enough points to take the title on the penultimate day of the season.

However, heavy rain during the last two stages meant an anxious wait for the now four-time champions as they battled their way through the slippery, clay-based roads of the Coffs-area forests.

Evans and his co-driver and wife, Sue, revelled in the conditions, winning Stage 6 by almost 10 seconds to eventually claim seven of the day's nine stages and take Heat 1 by more than 30 seconds from British Champion Guy Wilks in a Honda.

The defending champions enjoyed a welcome return to form in Heat 1 and are confident they can finish the season with their second outright win of the year.

TRD guest driver Paul Gover and Toyota privateer Glen Raymond both navigated the final stages successfully and recovered from their issues earlier in the Heat to finish 14th and 12th respectively.

Bates has little time to celebrate as Heat 2 of the Coffs Coast Rally gets underway tomorrow morning where crews will tackle the same nine stages as Heat 1, but with more rain expected overnight, conditions could be challenging from the outset.

Simon Evans, Toyota Corolla S2000 - Car #1:

"It was a great day for Toyota and it was a hard day so I am glad we triumphed because the hard ones are more rewarding. The rain came in and although I was on the un-cut tyre, they gave me great feel and I drove accordingly. I had a ball out there and I am surprised we won by so much. Stage 6 was very technical, but I really love that type of action - it is where the S2000 excels. It is also great to have Guy Wilks here because it says a lot about our championship to have a driver of his quality competing in our rounds."

Neal Bates, Toyota Corolla S2000 - Car #2:

"I am absolutely over the moon. It has been 13 years between championships and overall it was a very tense day as we were listening out for every noise and squeak, but the S2000 Corolla has been faultless all year and it was again today. We were very conservative but I wasn't going to throw it away after 13 years. I didn't enjoy driving that way, but the end result is what we came here for. It is the first time an S2000-spec car has won the ARC and it is a real credit to the entire TRD team. Probably 80 per cent of the work in rallying is done before you get to an event so it is a big thanks to our incredibly smart bunch of guys in Canberra that have made this championship happen. Because it has been so long between drinks this feels pretty special. Your first championship is always the best, but we will really cherish this one when it is all over tomorrow."

Coral Taylor (co-driver), Toyota Corolla S2000 - Car #2:

"It is pretty amazing. I am not really sure where the last 13 years has gone since our last title but it is wonderful to win it again. It has been the longest day ever as it is easier to fight for the outright win than it is to just get to the finish, so I am relieved the day is over. Neal was very quiet in the last couple of stages and when the rain came at the end we didn't really speak at all and just concentrated on being conservative and getting to the end of the Heat. This isn't just our championship - it is the team's. We have the best team in the country and this success if for everyone involved. However, we really need to thank Toyota who we have worked with for an extremely long time and have always stuck by us. They have also supported the ARC for a long time so we are very grateful for that."

Paul Gover, Toyota Corolla Group N (P) - Car #23:

"It was extremely wet on those last few stages so I am just happy we got through. That was a tough day overall but it was great to see Neal triumph after years of trying." 

Australian Rally Championship

Coffs Coast Rally

Heat 1 - Final Results:

1) Simon Evans - Toyota Corolla S2000 1h05m07.4s

2) Guy Wilks - Honda Civic Type-R +30.1s

3) Eli Evans - Subaru Impreza WRX +40.1

4) Nathan Quinn - Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +1:21.4

5) Michael Boaden - Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +1:39.9

6) Michael Guest - Subaru Impreza WRX +2:19.5

8) Neal Bates - Toyota Corolla S2000 +2:53.4

12) Glen Raymond - Toyota Corolla Group N (P) +5:10.1

14) Paul Gover - Toyota Corolla Group N (P) +7:25.5
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