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The NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship is heating up, with just 43 points separating the top five drivers and a maximum of 41 points on offer this weekend at the 2006 coates Rally Queensland.
Toyota's Simon Evans goes into this weekend's third round of the NEC Computers ARC with the series lead, courtesy of his round win in Western Australia.
TRD leader Neal Bates sits just 5 points behind Evans, with leading privateer Dean Herridge a further 12 points behind.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's Scott Pedder is currently fourth ahead of West Australian privateer Darren Windus, and both are within striking distance of the series lead.
Pirtek Rally Team Ford's Michael Guest is placed just outside the top ten, and is keen to develop the potential of the Focus in the team's debut year in the Championship.
Evans, who was dogged by mechanical problems at this event in 2005, has not been off the podium this season and is firming as a favourite for the driver's championship.
A late minute withdrawal from Chinese national rally champion Xu Lang will give many of the privateer entries a chance to pressure for an outright top five position.
Stewart Reid is the highest-seeded local driver in an ex-works Toyota Corolla Sportivo, and will compete for privateer honours against drivers including Martin Lintott, David Hills, Gerald Schofield and Glen Raymond.
A strong local contingent is headed by John Goasdue in a Subaru Impreza RS, who will face tough opposition from ARC regulars Will Orders and John Murray Jnr in the BP Ultimate Challenge.
coates Rally Queensland combines fast and narrow gravel roads with tight and twisty technical stages in the Imbil State Forest. The competitive stages have a reputation as some of the toughest roads in the championship, making this event a test of car reliability and driver mettle.
The rally has shifted base north to the Maroochy Shire, with operations running out of the new headquarters at Novotel Twin Waters Resort.
The rally kicks off with a ceremonial start on Mooloolaba Beach Esplanade on Friday evening June 16.
Teams then head inland to the Imbil State Forest for 19 competitive stages on Saturday and Sunday before the finish at Mooloolaba on Sunday afternoon.
Highlighted vision from the pre-event shakedown and Heats One and Two will be available from Network Ten Sydney at 1600EST on Friday June 16, Saturday June 17 and Sunday June 18.
Live results will be available over the weekend from www.rally.com.au.
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