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Toyota is the NEC Australian Rally Manufacturers' Champion for the first time in its history.

Taking second and fourth place at the Toyota Rally SA, TRD drivers Neal Bates and Simon Evans secured the honour, despite there being two manufacturers' point-scoring rounds still remaining – the NGK Rally of Melbourne and Telstra Rally Australia.

Three names dominated the Australian Rally Championship in the mid-1990s – Neal Bates, Coral Taylor and Toyota.

This combination achieved three consecutive drivers' championships between 1993 and 1995.

However, in those three years, the points system saw a manufacturer in a lesser category awarded the manufacturers' title.

TRD team boss Neal Bates said winning the manufacturers' title in a Group N (P) Corolla was a proud achievement for his team.

"To be in the position we are now in is very satisfying because the Corollas are our [team's] cars," Bates said.

"We have had to work so hard at their development over the years, which makes winning the manufacturers' title even more rewarding."

"Our team is a lot better now than in those championship seasons – it has to be to keep up with the level of competition at the front of the ARC."

The TRD team has the chance to add a drivers' championship to the manufacturers' achievement in the last round of the drivers' championship this weekend at the NGK Rally of Melbourne.

Evans leads his team-mate by 16 points in the lead-up to the finale, while Bates is six points ahead of Subaru's Dean Herridge.

Complicating things in Melbourne is the fact that the finale offers 50 per cent more points than the other rounds in the ARC – ensuring the drivers' championship is still wide open.

TRD has enjoyed a stellar season to date, with team boss Bates finishing on the podium at every event so far this season while Evans is the only driver to win multiple events – in Western Australia and Queensland.

"Ultimately, we need to finish on the podium to clinch the championship – so that has to be our goal," Simon Evans said.

"But I still want to win my home event and I'll be driving to achieve that.

"The conditions on the Victorian roads can be very changeable, which I'm comfortable with.

"This forest is where I learnt to rally, and it's the first outright event that I won in the ARC, so I'm naturally looking forward to it."

The Rally of Melbourne is also a favourite for Bates.

"I've always liked the Rally of Melbourne," he said. "I really like the roads and I think I've won that event more than any other.

"I won't be changing my approach for this rally – you have to treat it just like any other event and do the job required.

"There's obviously more at stake in the final round, but it's important not to think about that."

The 2006 NEC Australian Rally Championship will be decided at the NGK Rally of Melbourne this weekend in the forests north of the Victorian capital.

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