Team TRD rally driver Neal Bates has scored an historic class victory in the 2008 Targa Tasmania tarmac rally, claiming the first major win for the TRD Aurion.

Three-time Australian rally champion Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor won a see-sawing battle over the V8-powered Monaro of Paul Freestone to claim victory in their class of the Modern Competition category.

The 1995 Targa-winning duo was victorious by just three seconds, winning an enduring event-long battle with Freestone on the final two stages of the event.

Bates was pleased to secure his fourth class victory in Targa and to give the supercharged, 3.5-litre V6-powered TRD Aurion a win against stiff competition.

He and Taylor finished 21st outright and secured their second victory in as many weeks following their win in the opening round of the 2008 Australian Rally Championship in Western Australia.

"I am absolutely over the moon to score a class victory for the TRD Aurion in its very first event," Bates said. "We had a really tough battle with Paul Freestone during the last couple of days and it is very satisfying to come out on top.

"Targa is such a special event. Tasmanians' really get behind it and the turnout in Hobart for today's last stage was amazing.

"Targa has allowed the TRD Aurion to show its performance credentials and I am sure this class win will be the first of many victories for the car."

Team-mate Simon Evans was joined by Today show sports reporter Cameron Williams who acted as co-driver for the reigning Australian rally champion.

The duo held the lead in their class until an engine failure caused their retirement just four stages from the end of the rally.

Up until that point, Evans' showroom-spec TRD Aurion had been leading its class and was running third in the Showroom 2WD category.

"Everything was going really well until we unfortunately had a problem with the engine on the Mount Arrowsmith stage," Evans said.

"Although we had a problem with the engine, the engineers at TRD will review it and I am sure they will be able to take a lot from it and use the information to help future development.

"For a showroom-standard car the TRD Aurion performed exceptionally well throughout Targa and surprised many people with its pace. Targa is a unique event and it was great to see the Tasmanian people turn out in such strong numbers."

Williams was impressed with Evans' ability and the TRD Aurion's performance.

"Today was such a fantastic experience," Williams said. "Although the result was not what we wanted, I got the chance to experience rallying at its best with the best so I certainly have a renewed appreciation for Simon's ability.

"I am astounded by the speed Simon got from a standard road car - the TRD Aurion was such a great car. Motorsport has its highs and lows and today I experienced both."
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