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Team Mitsubishi Ralliart has ended the NEC Australian Rally Championship
on a high, with its Evolution IX Lancer driven by Scott Pedder and Glen
Weston winning the final round - the NGK Rally of Melbourne.

The Evo IX and its crew overcame incredibly tough opposition and adverse
conditions to triumph in the two-day event in the Yarra Valley.

TMR emerged from the event with its drivers scoring 55.5 points to the
54 of Toyota pair Simon and Sue Evans.

The Evo IX won Saturday's first heat by 16.4 seconds from the Toyota and
led Sunday's second heat until the very last stage, finishing just 1.2
seconds behind.

Pedder and Weston knew that TMR had the outright win in the bag provided
they got the Evo IX to the finish and they did not want to jeopardise
that.

It was Melbourne driver Pedder's first round victory on his home soil,
although he first won a heat on this event - as a privateer - in 2003.

"We were determined to finish this season with a round win and it feels
very sweet to have done that," Pedder said.

"The Evo IX has been brilliant. We've won a heat at each of the last
four rounds of the championship, and to win this final round overall has
been very satisfying.

"Rallying is a very tough and demanding sport but we've hardly put a
mark on the car in these past four events.

"Things didn't go our way in the first couple of rounds of the season
but we certainly came on strong after that.

"We were stiff not to have won a round before Melbourne, but now we've
done it - that's the important thing."

The Rally of Melbourne marked the end of the second season for Pedder
and Weston as factory drivers.

They have won a round both years, taking victory at Rally South
Australia last season in an Evolution VIII Ralliart Lancer - and they
were unlucky not to repeat that in the Evo IX last month.

TMR principal Alan Heaphy paid tribute to the drivers and his crew based
at Mitsubishi Ralliart's headquarters at Dandenong in Melbourne.

"The guys, led by Pete West and Alan Swanson, put in an incredible
effort each season,  and for each event, so it's tremendously satisfying
when it all comes together as it has this weekend," Heaphy said.

"The drivers have done a terrific job and produced the appropriate
reward for everyone.

"This win has been a while coming, but the important thing is that we
have achieved it."

TMR congratulated Simon and Sue Evans and Neal Bates and Coral Taylor on
finishing at the top of the drivers' championships and Toyota on its
first victory in the manufacturers' championship.

The Evo IX Lancer and the leading Toyota each won five of the 14 stages
in Melbourne, but Pedder and Weston gained the 1.5 bonus points on a
countback by virtue of winning a stage first - the opening stage on
Saturday morning.

Two of the longer stages - the scheduled second pass over the 24.83km
Kalatha and 13.58km Blowhard stages - had to be cancelled on Sunday
afternoon after a fierce storm swept through the Yarra Valley, leaving
trees strewn across the course.

"I've never seen hail as heavy as today, although I have driven on roads
more slippery in Rally SA a few years back," Pedder said.

"With trees down across the roads there wasn't any option but to cancel
those stages to complete the rally on time. Rally drivers are always up
for anything, but there wasn't anything else that could be done this
time. That's just how it was. Although Simon was a fraction quicker than
us on the final couple of stages we were focused on getting to the
finish, knowing that if we did we had the win for the weekend - and
that's what we did."
 

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