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Two veterans of Australian motorsport, Jim Richards and Tony Quinn, have had an enthralling dual on the second day of Rally Tasmania, with just 1.9 seconds separating the pair after 144 testing competitive kilometres.

The narrow margin ensures a titanic struggle on the final day between the Porsche 911 GT2 of Richards and the powerful Nissan GTR of Quinn across the last 72.33 kilometres around Sheffield in the state’s north.

The two have cleared out on the rest of the field. Local Burnie driver, Jamie Vandenberg is in third place, 56.5 seconds off the pace in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, while Tony Longhurst is another 11.9 seconds back in his Les Walkden Rallying-prepared Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

The first two days of action has also seen the classic car field spread out, with South Australian Kevin Weeks, driving a 1974 Porsche 911, clearly showing his superiority by establishing a three minute 34.8 second lead over the Porsche 911 RS of  Roger Paterson.

Weeks looks certain to take top points tomorrow in the first round of the inaugural Australian Classic Tarmac Rally Championship as long as he can keep his car on the road.

The Australian Rally Championship component of the event looks to have narrowed down to a battle of two. Reigning champion, Neal Bates, in his last factory drive for Toyota, is leading his team mate Simon Evans by 13.5 seconds. Eli Evans, behind the wheel of an Impreza WRX STI, is third, 16.5 seconds further back, unable to match the pace of the Toyotas.

With the fine weather expected to continue, Quinn knows he will have to out drive Richards rather than rely on rain, if he is to secure the outright victory.

“We’ve been pushing as hard as we can,” Quinn said. “With the dry conditions the tyres have been going off on the longer stages, but I think everyone is having similar problems.

“The car is really quick, despite us not being able to use the launch control, which makes it slow off the line.”

Richards feels that there is room for improvement.

“The car has been a little low on boost at times, but I think that’s because the turbo’s been getting very hot,” Richards said. “Apart from that, the car’s been great.  
 â€œWe’re pushing as hard as we’re comfortable with, and have had a great battle all day with Tony (Quinn).”

Vandenberg holds the hopes of the locals.

“It’s been a good day and I’m very happy to be in third place,” Vandenberg said. “We haven’t been doing anything silly, although tyre wear has been a bit of an issue.

Weeks’ lead could have been even bigger had he not experienced early trouble.

“We had a blocked carburettor jet on the first stage this morning, but once that was fixed, the car has been awesome,” Weeks said.

“We’ve been pushing pretty hard, but we’ve managed to build a good lead now, so just need to make sure that we bring the car home in one piece.”

In the Australian Rally Championship, Bates thinks his main tomorrow will remain his team mate.

"Simon (Evans) and I seemed to have the wood over the other cars on Savage River and although he took around five seconds out of me on the way in, I took about the same back on the second run, so it was honours even,” Bates said.

“The Corolla is so nimble, whereas other drivers are struggling to maintain the grip level of their cars.”

2009 Rally Tasmania – results after day two

1. Tony Quinn / Naomi Tillett, Nissan GTR, 1h08m00.5s
2. Jim Richards / Barry Oliver, Porsche 911 GT2, +1.9s
3. Jamie Vandenberg / Simon Vandenberg, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +56.5s
4. Tony Longhurst / Linda Long, Subaru Impreza WRX STIm +1:08.4s
5. Tony Alford / Kelly Handley, Nissan GTR, +2:39.8s

Classics (pre-1982)
1. Kevin Weeks / Rebecca Crunkhorn, Porsche 911, 1h10m33.4s
2. Roger Paterson / Richard Geue, Porsche 911 RS, +3:34.8s
3. Gary Tierney / David Carra, Porsche Carrera RS, +5:51.7s
4. Steven Cadden / Steven Strik, Porsche 911, +5:55.7s
5. Glyn Crimp / Paul Van Der Mey, Porsche 924 GTS, +6:09.4s

Australian Rally Championship
1. Neal Bates / Coral Taylor, Toyota Corolla S2000, 1h08m05.8s
2. Simon Evans / Sue Evans, Toyota Corolla S2000, +13.5s
3. Eli Evans / Chris Murphy, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +31.0s
4. Brendan Reeves / Rhianon Smyth, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +2:08.1s
5. Glen Raymond / Matt Raymond, Toyota Corolla Sportivo, +2:16.9s
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