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Pirtek LWR Rally Team driver, Michael Guest, has completed a strong comeback in the first round of the Australian Rally Championship, in Western Australia.

Driving his Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Guest and co-driver, David Green, recovered from yesterday’s rollover  in Heat One to finish Heat Two of the QUIT Forest Rally in second place.

The result leaves him in fourth place in the championship, behind Neal Bates (Toyota), who finished first in Heat 2 and second in Heat 1, and Eli Evans in second place, also in a Subaru. Bates has a total of 74 points, 12 clear of Evans, with Guest a further three points behind third placed Justin Dowel.

After Guest’s accident yesterday, the Pirtek LWR mechanics replaced the broken windscreen and front suspension on the Subaru before the first two tarmac stages, on the Busselton foreshore, which began Heat two last night. Guest was quickly back on the pace, finishing the short sprints in fourth place.

When the rally moved into the forests around Nannup this morning, the Newcastle pair moved up the leaderboard and were second, behind rally leader, Simon Evans, heading into the Heat’s seventh stage.

Evans’ Toyota then came to a halt mid-stage with an engine problem, handing the lead to the Pirtek LWR crew.

But despite a diminising tyre supply, Guest was determined to give the Subaru and his new team their first Heat victory of the season.

“We pushed as hard as possible over the final three stages to try and maintain our lead, but we simply ran out of good tyres,” Guest commented at the finish.

“We probably used too many of our allocated 18 tyres during Heat One, and when it was time for the final few stages we struggled for grip on the slippery ball bearing surface. The Super 2000 Corollas are a lot lighter than our Group N Subaru, which helped Batesy (Neal Bates) in the end.”

Toyota’s Neal Bates, with a full season in the S2000 Corolla already under his belt, used the lighter Toyota to full advantage. While Guest took second place on the final three stages, Bates took the stage wins and claimed a ten second victory.

“To be honest, I’m really disappointed, because I thought we’d be able to hold onto the lead and take the Heat win,” Guest added. “But I guess after yesterday, I can’t be too disappointed. We’ve come away from the first round with more points in the bag than Simon Evans, who I think will be our biggest rival this year.”

Guest made major changes to the Pirtek LWR Subaru at every service break over the weekend, and believes that he needs to find about half a second per kilometre of speed from the car, if he is to regularly match Evans.

“The whole package just needs to gel together,” he said. “I think there’s about 50 per cent improvement left in me, and probably 50 per cent in getting the car set up exactly to my liking, so things are looking very promising.”

Yesterday’s roll was a major disappointment to Guest, who admitted that it was the only driving error he made all rally.

“We were really unlucky, because it was a rock that was buried in the blackberries on a long corner. Simon (Evans) hit it and went up onto two wheels, but it was us who were unfortunate enough to roll.”

It was also the same rock which Toyota driver, Glen Raymond, hit earlier in Heat 1. The impact also put his car on its side and out of Heat 1.

With a good haul of points now against their name, Guest and Green are already eagerly awaiting the next round of the championship, the Rally of Canberra, on May 10 and 11. The rally is a round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, as well as the Australian Rally Championship.

QUIT Forest Rally
Heat 2 Results:
1. Neal Bates, Toyota Corolla S2000, 1:07m04.8s
2. Michael Guest, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +10.0
3. Eli Evans, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +54.3
4. Spencer Lowndes, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, +1:24.3
5. Glen Raymond, Toyota Corolla Sportivo, +1:58.1
6. Roman Watkins, Subaru Impreza WRX, +2:18.2

QUIT Forest Rally
Heat 1 Results:
1. Simon Evans Toyota Corolla S2000 1:05:50.7
2. Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 +1:28.2
3. Alex Stone Subaru Impreza WRX +3:45.4
4. Justin Dowel Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +4:35.1
5. Spencer Lowndes Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +6:16.0
Darren Windus Subaru Impreza WRX +6:17.5

2008 Australian Rally Championship points* (after 1 of 6 rounds)
1. Neal Bates, Toyota, 74
2. Eli Evans, Subaru, 62
3. Justin Dowel, Mitsubishi, 48
4. Michael Guest, Subaru, 43
4. Simon Evans, Toyota, 41
5. Roman Watkins, Subaru, 38
6. Spencer Lowndes, Mitsubishi, 38

* Provisional pointscore

Photo: Hubble Photographix

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