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Toyota Australia is mounting a two-car assault on the 2008 Targa Tasmania tarmac rally, entering two TRD Aurions in what will be the supercharged V6-powered car's first competitive outing.

The two TRD-liveried cars will be driven in the six-day event that starts on Tuesday 15 April by rally champions Neal Bates and Simon Evans.

Former Targa winner Bates will be joined by his regular co-driver Coral Taylor in a race-prepared version of Toyota's new performance sedan, while Evans will drive a near-standard TRD Aurion alongside a host of celebrity co-drivers.

Both TRD Aurions have been prepared at Neal Bates Motorsport by the same team that designs, builds and runs Toyota's multi-championship-winning Australian Rally Championship (ARC) Corollas.

Bates - who was heavily-involved with the development of the locally assembled supercharged TRD Aurion - believes the car has the potential to surprise some of its rivals in the hotly contested Modern Competition category.

"Targa is one of the biggest and most loved events in Australian motorsport. We are all very excited to be returning," Bates said.

"The TRD Aurion is a great package and I believe we will surprise some of the other crews with our pace. A top-15 placing is our goal and a top-10 placing is not entirely out of the question.

"It is also really exciting to be giving the TRD Aurion its race debut on the very roads the car was developed to suit."

Simon Evans will only be accompanied by his wife and regular ARC co-driver Sue during Targa's Prologue. The two-time national rally champion believes the celebrity co-driver concept could produce some interesting results.

"It will be very strange without Sue sitting next to me for all but the Prologue, but it will give me a chance to spend time with the celebrities in an environment that is pretty far removed from how we normally see them," Simon Evans said.

Evans will be joined by the host of Network Ten's RPM motorsport program Greg Rust, morning TV show host Kerri-Anne Kennerley, TODAY show sports presenter Cameron Williams and radio personality Jonathan Coleman.

"Greg Rust and I have spent some time working on his co-driving. The other celebrities will be coached by Sue, so all-in-all it will be interesting to see how competitive we can be," the two-time rally champion said.

"Of course we won't be going for the top 10 like Neal and Coral, but I think people will be surprised how well the near-standard TRD Aurion will go. It is a very quick car. It brakes well and handles superbly so I am confident."

Each competing car is given special Targa Tasmania numberplates for the event. Bates and Taylor will compete in the Modern Competition class and will be car #960. Evans is running in the Showroom 2WD class and is car #929.

Toyota is returning to Targa for the first time since entering a V6-powered Camry in 2003 for motorsport legends Colin Bond and Murray Walker.

The 2008 edition of Targa Tasmania commences with a Prologue in George Town on Tuesday 15 April, before concluding in Hobart on Sunday 20 April.
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