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When you're heading into the final round of the national championship, and you're equal on points with Possum Bourne, the last thing you need is to crash in the pre-event test. But that's exactly what happened to Neal Bates in the lead up to the ARC finale in Tasmania in 2000. Toyota and Bates had prepared well for the final event of the year, and had call in help from Toyota Team Europe in Germany to assist with their title push. "We are just amazed to be in this position, able to challenge Possum for the title, especially after the Forest Rally at the beginning of the year," Neal Bates at the media day on the Thursday before the rally. The Corolla WRCar was well tested and prepared after the two heat win at the Rally of Melbourne. When Possum Bourne's Subaru Impreza World Rally Car had an engine failure in testing, the odds looked to be stacking heavily in Bates' favour. It didn't take long for things to turn pear-shaped though, when the Toyota team went testing after the Thursday morning media function.
"It was the last run of the day, and it was the only corner in the stage that you would look at and say 'gee, I really don’t want to go off there!'" Neal Bates told us at the time.
"It was a Right 6, I managed to get a little wide, and went off and started hitting trees," he explained. The car sustained damage to the right hand front, and the biggest drama was the right hand strut tower. The rest of the damage was to panels, which on a WRCar could be a drama, as they are not common to any of the donor model road cars of the time! Fortunately, Toyota had a display car – Neal’s old rally car. Team personnel worked solid for the next 30 hours after the accident to make sure that the three-time Aussie champion would be able to take his battle up to Bourne's by-now rebuilt Subaru. As NEIL BLACKBOURN's photos from 2000 show below, it was a mercurial effort from the Toyota Australia team to get the car repaired – all done in a local Hobart workshop.

All photos: Neil Blackbourn

Read our 2000 Saxon Safari Rally report:

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