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Multiple Bathurst 1000 winner, Jim Richards, holds a narrow lead at the end of the first day of Rally Tasmania, being held around Burnie in the state’s north west.

Driving a Porsche 911 GT2, Richards and Launceston co-driver, Barry Oliver, hold a 3.4 second advantage over the Nissan GTR of Tony Quinn, with another Bathurst winner, Tony Longhurst, third in a Subaru.

In the Classic section, another Porsche, driven by South Australian Kevin Weeks, holds an 11 second lead over the De Tomaso Pantera of Queenslander Keith Callinan.

In the Australian Rally Championship event, running in conjunction with Rally Tasmania, the Toyota Corollas of Neal Bates and Simon Evans hold the top two places.

In fine, warm and dry conditions, Richards proved that his powerful, rear-wheel drive Porsche was just the machine for the flowing Tasmanian stages. Although the first day was only relatively short in terms of competitive distance, he has already set the pace.

The four-wheel drive, turbocharged cars of Quinn and Longhurst had been hoping for wet conditions, but they have not materialised. Despite trailing Richards, they know that the longer day two will prove decisive in the three-day event.

The local Burnie pairing of brothers Jamie and Simon Vandenberg lie in fourth place in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, with a big margin back to fifth placed Simon Gillet in a Subaru.

Kevin Weeks was expected to set the pace in the Classic category, and that has proved to be the case. The 2008 Classic Adelaide winner had a good day, but will need to keep the foot down to keep ahead of Callinan’s 700 horsepower De Tomaso.

South Australians Roger Paterson and Richard Geue hold third place in their Porsche 911 RS, just five seconds clear of the similar car of Gary Tierney and David Carra, from Victoria.

Tarmac expert Neal Bates leads the Australian Championship field by just 2.5 seconds from his team-mate, Simon Evans, both driving Toyota Corolla S2000s. Bates is aiming for the perfect start to the season as he starts the defence of his 2008 national title.

Evans, the 2006 and 2007 title holder, is narrowly ahead of his younger brother Eli Evans (Subaru Impreza WRX STI), while another young Victorian, Brendan Reeves (Subaru), is fourth.

2009 Rally Tasmania – results after day one

1. Jim Richards / Barry Oliver, Porsche 911 GT2, 11min 57.3sec
2. Tony Quinn / Naomi Tillett, Nissan GTR, 3.4s
3. Tony Longhurst / Linda Long, Subaru Impreza WRX STIm +4.7s
4. Jamie Vandenberg / Simon Vandenberg, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +9.1s
5. Simon Gillet / Kathy Norton, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +28.4s

1. Kevin Weeks / Rebecca Crunkhorn, Porsche 911, 12min 23.1sec
2. Keith Callinan / Mary-Anne Callinan, De Tomaso Pantera, +11.1s
3. Roger Paterson / Richard Geue, Porsche 911 RS, +32.2s
4. Gary Tierney / David Carra, Porsche Carrera RS, +37.5s
5. Brett Kay / Stuart Jack, Mazda RX7, +40.8s

Australian Rally Championship
1. Neal Bates / Coral Taylor, Toyota Corolla S2000, 11min 57.0sec
2. Simon Evans / Sue Evans, Toyota Corolla S2000, +2.5s
3. Eli Evans / Chris Murphy, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +5.1s
4. Brendan Reeves / Rhianon Smyth, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +6.8s
5. Glen Raymond / Matt Raymond, Toyota Corolla Sportivo, +20.1s
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