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2007 Rally of QLD

  1. EVANS BEGINS TITLE DEFENCE IN STYLE
  2. REIGNING CHAMP EXTENDS LEAD DESPITE HICCUP
  3. TRD SETS BLISTERING PACE
  4. EVANS STARTS HEAT 2 FASTEST
  5. EVANS WINS FIRST HEAT OF 2007
  6. EVANS EXTENDS LEAD, BATES ENCOUNTERS PROBLEMS
  7. EVANS PICKS UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
  8. TRD SHAKES DOWN COROLLAS, EVANS FASTEST IN PRACTICE
  9. TOYOTA RALLY CHAMPIONS GET SEAL OF APPROVAL FOR 2007

EVANS BEGINS TITLE DEFENCE IN STYLE


Toyota's Simon and Sue Evans have begun their NEC Australian Rally Championship title defence with an impressive win in the first round at Coates Rally Queensland.

The reigning champion has been in fine form since he arrived in Queensland, setting the fastest time at Friday's shakedown, and winning both heats of the rally.

In fact, Evans set the fastest stage time on every one of the event's 17 stages in the forests of the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

The Evans team never failed to impress, with scintillating time after scintillating time - his progress was only halted momentarily on SS16 when he slid off the road into two trees and into a ditch.

However, after returning to the road Evans still managed to set the fastest time on that stage.

Neal Bates had a particularly encouraging day at the office in Heat 2 behind the wheel of TRD's development Super 2000 Corolla.

A problem with a fuel rail saw Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor lose half an hour in Heat 1, but the team boss turned it around in Heat 2 setting the second fastest stage time on all of the second day's stages.

His faultless drive carried him to an impressive second in the heat, just over a minute behind his team mate.

Bates' mechanical issue in Heat 1 (where he subsequently finished 14th) meant he ended the event in fourth position.

It was a proud day for the Evans clan though, with Simon's younger brother Eli scoring third place in both heats to claim second overall in his Subaru.

Young Brendan Reeves was another star of the event, with two fourth places seeing him achieve a stunning first podium in third.

Simon Evans now leads the NEC Australian Rally Championship with 81 points, while Neal Bates sits in fourth with 44 points.

Simon Evans, Car #1, Group N(P):
"The Corolla was perfect for the whole rally - just a joy to drive. This is a great start to the season - I couldn't possibly ask for any more. I ran my own rally and we weren't even looking at stage times. I was pushing myself to see what I was capable of, and because the car was so good I felt like I could do anything with it. My goal in defending the championship was to command it from the start and control it from the front. We've worked hard in the off-season and it's paid off to date - mission accomplished for Round 1."

Neal Bates, Car #2, S2000:
"It was very satisfying to have such good pace in Heat 2. Other than a silly little problem in Heat 1, the S2000 car has actually been very reliable. Full credit to the team because they have built a very good and a very strong car. The handling of the car has been quite good all along, but I think I'm starting to understand it better and am getting it to go faster. These cars can certainly be fast - there's still a hell of a lot of work to do and weight to get out of it, but we're certainly heading in the right direction and it augurs well for the new car."

Round 2 of the 2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship is the Quit Forest Rally in Western Australia on April 28-29.



2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship - Round One
Coates Rally Queensland - Heat 1
Final results:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N(P) 1:03:56.8
2) Dean Herridge Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +1:35.0
3) Eli Evans Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +2:00.9
4) Brendan Reeves Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +4:34.3
5) Steven Shepheard Mitsubishi Lancer Evo PRC +4:59.3
6) Glenn Brinkman Mitsubishi Lancer Evo PRC +5:41.4


2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship - Round One
Coates Rally Queensland - Heat 2
Final results:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N(P) 1:04:09.9
2) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 +1:11.5
3) Eli Evans Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +2:06.6
4) Brendan Reeves Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +3:42.0
5) Darren Windus Ford Fiesta S2000 +3:49.8
6) John Goasdoue Mitsubishi Lancer Evo PRC +5:03.1


2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship - Round One
Coates Rally Queensland
Overall results and championship standings:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N(P) 81 points
2) Eli Evans Subaru Impreza WRX Group N 60
3) Brendan Reeves Subaru Impreza WRX Group N 52
4) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 44
5) Brenton Kaitler Mitsubishi Lancer Evo PRC 38
6) Dean Herridge Subaru Impreza WRX Group N 34

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REIGNING CHAMP EXTENDS LEAD DESPITE HICCUP


TRD's Simon Evans has continued his run of stage wins with another three consecutive fastest times in the day's middle session.

Team mate Neal Bates has continued the impressive form of the Super 2000 development Corolla, helping complete a TRD 1-2 in all of today's six stages.

However, it wasn't all smooth sailing for Evans, who had an off-track excursion on SS15 - kissing two trees and ending up stopped in a ditch.

Evans eventually got reverse and got back onto the road to continue on the stage - which he still completed in the fastest time.

Simon Evans, Car #1, Group N(P):
"We came up to a crest that was 20 metres from a hairpin right and I tried to hold it flat over the crest before I braked. I managed to hold it flat over the crest, but the problem was that I got airborne. By the time I landed I was already well into the corner and I ran out of road. We slipped off the outside of the corner and rested up against a couple of trees. I reversed back onto the road and we probably lost ten or 15 seconds. The damage is all superficial, and we still set a really good time. We were flying - which I guess was the problem really. No brakes in the world work when your car's in the air!"

Neal Bates, Car #2, S2000:
"It's all going very well. I don't like saying it with two stages to go, but there hasn't been a problem yet. Both car's have been really strong to date - the guys will fix Simon's car in this service and hopefully we can keep it going. It's not a huge gap to Dean, there are still a lot of kilometres to go, but if everything goes according to plan it would be great to get second in a heat of the S2000's first rally."

The TRD crew has repaired the body damage to the front left corner of the Evans Corolla. Both cars return to the action for the two final stages and 35 kilometres of competitive rallying to the end of Coates Rally Queensland


2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship - Round One
Coates Rally Queensland - Heat 2
Results after SS15:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N(P) 43:28.8
2) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 +47.5
3) Dean Herridge Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +1:05.5
4) Eli Evans Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +1:22.3
5) Brendan Reeves Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +2:39.2
6) Darren Windus Ford Fiesta S2000 +2:52.4

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TRD SETS BLISTERING PACE


Toyota's Simon Evans and Neal Bates have begun the second day of Coates Rally Queensland in impressive style, sitting first and second after four stages of Heat 2.

Evans and co-driver wife Sue set a blistering pace through the first three stages today, carving time off their previous best marks of yesterday, and extending their number of fastest stage times in a row to 12 - every one of this event.

Evans now leads by 30.5s in his Group N(P) Corolla, ahead of team mate Neal Bates' development S2000 car.

The Bates car seems to be getting quicker all of the time, with the TRD team boss and co-driver Coral Taylor setting the second fastest time on each of the morning's first three stages.

Bates is now 10.2s ahead of Dean Herridge's Subaru in third place.

Simon Evans, Car #1, Group N(P):
"I just feel like I'm in the zone at the moment and I'm having a ball. I'm not pushing that hard, but when you're in the zone it never feels like you're pushing that hard. We're relaxed and we're driving fast and clean. The roads are in perfect condition - they are absolutely fantastic rally roads. All the right ingredients are there for fast stage times. Everything's happening in slow motion for me."

Neal Bates, Car #2, S2000:
"Obviously I'm very happy with that - we've just got to try and keep up for the rest of the event. We've made a couple of changes overnight that have made it a little bit better, but I think I'm probably driving it better as well - I'm still learning things about how to make this car go as fast as it can."

Another three stages remain before the event's final service this afternoon.

2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship - Round One
Coates Rally Queensland - Heat 2
Results after SS12:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N(P) 24:25.8
2) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 +30.5
3) Dean Herridge Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +40.7
4) Eli Evans Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +53.2
5) Brendan Reeves Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +1:36.5
6) Darren Windus Ford Fiesta S2000 +1:38.6

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EVANS STARTS HEAT 2 FASTEST


Simon Evans has tonight continued his perfect run in the Coates Rally Queensland, by taking out the Nambour Showground Super Special Stage in front of a huge number of enthusiastic locals.

Evans dominated Heat 1 today, winning each of the day's eight stages and taking out the heat by 1m 35s.

The night time stage saw two drivers run against each other under lights around a gravel oval track with a small chicane on two sides.

Cars began on opposite sides of the track, before racing off against each other over three laps for a total stage distance of 1.29 kilometres

Evans thrilled the large crowd in his dual with Dean Herridge, scorching the track with a 1:01.0 to begin Heat 2, and beating his Subaru rival by a full second.

He then performed a donut in the very narrow section of track in front of the packed grandstand to celebrate - and impress the fans.

Team mate Neal Bates was just 1.2s behind Evans, pipping the rival Ford Fiesta S2000 of Michael Guest in their matchrace by 0.1s.

Subaru driver Will Orders was second by 0.9s, ahead of Herridge, Bates and Guest.

Simon Evans, Car #1, Group N(P):
"That was a lot more fun than I was expecting - the atmosphere with all the people here is amazing. I'm glad we got to put on a bit of a show - I just wish there was more room on that front straight for some donuts!"

Neal Bates, Car #2, S2000:
"It's really good for the sport that so many people have turned up tonight - combined with the turnout at the start last night it is really encouraging. It was good to get our nose in front of Michael tonight, though it doesn't mean a lot for the rally as it's not even one and a half kilometres. Tomorrow should be a very interesting day in the forest.

Eight more stages in the Sunshine Coast hinterland will determine the Heat 2 and rally winner tomorrow.

2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship - Round One
Coates Rally Queensland, Heat 2.
Results after SS9:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N(P) 1:01.0
2) Will Orders Subaru Impreza WRX +0.9
3) Dean Herridge Subaru Impreza WRX +1.0
4) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 +1.2
=5) Michael Guest Ford Fiesta S2000 +1.3
=5) Eli Evans Subaru Impreza WRX +1.3

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EVANS WINS FIRST HEAT OF 2007


2006 NEC Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans has begun his title defence in fine style, winning Heat 1 of Coates Rally Queensland today.

Evans won every stage of the day's running, finishing the day 1m 35s ahead of Subaru's Dean Herridge in second place, and 2m 00.9s ahead of his younger brother Eli in third.

It was a dominant performance from the reigning champion who did not put a wheel wrong all day.

Meanwhile, team boss Neal Bates put some crucial competitive kilometres on the Super 2000 development Corolla.

Bates encountered a problem on SS6, with a fuel rail breaking and causing a fuel injector to come out of its housing.

Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor were running ahead of Herridge, and were on track for second place until the problem.

The three times ARC champions returned to the action after the day's second service, setting some impressive times in the development car.

Simon Evans, Car #1, Group N(P):
"I'm really impressed with the car out there - it's just so easy to drive and I can place it wherever I want it on the road. This morning I was actually having the unusual problem of having too much grip, which is a great problem to have - we just had to adjust our driving style to suit. Kandanga [SS7] was a swept stage so there was plenty of grip available - whoa, we were quick! There were some massive jumps and the car was just fantastic, but I think it needed wings because I don't think I've ever spent so much time in the air on a stage before."

Neal Bates , Car #2, S2000:
"We got an enormous amount of positives out of today. It was disappointing to have a problem, but if we didn't have that problem, we could well have finished second which would have been an incredible day. There are a lot of good things there, but there's still plenty of work to do as well. We were very encouraged by the pace we were able to run at times today, and if we keep working on it and get some more weight out of it we could have a very competitive car."

Heat 2 begins tonight with a 1.3 kilometre super special stage at the Nambour Showgrounds, before another eight stages in the forests surrounding Imbil tomorrow.

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EVANS EXTENDS LEAD, BATES ENCOUNTERS PROBLEMS


Simon and Sue Evans have extended their lead to 36.5s at Coates Rally Queensland after another three stages.

After dominating the morning's three stages, the husband and wife team went on to win the next two stages for a clean sweep over the day's first five runs.

However, their progress was halted somewhat in SS6 when they were stopped mid-stage by the zero car.

The Australian Rally Championship cars are running behind the classic rally section on the road in this event, and despite being first on the road in the ARC, Evans has had to contend with some slow cars and crashed cars during the longer stages.

Halfway through SS6, car number one came around a bend and was waved down by the zero car - as recovery vehicles were still on the track ahead for a stricken classic car.

Meanwhile, Neal Bates and Coral Taylor began clawing back the gap to Subaru driver Eli Evans and building his lead over Subaru's Dean Herridge, with the second quickest time in SS5.

After their delayed start to SS6, Bates and Taylor were forced to stop after 5.7 kilometres with fuel leaking from the car - a fuel rail bracket failing.

Bates worked away at the problem, temporarily fixing it before completing the stage in a time of 44m 44.5s.

The Bates crew spent the day's second service ensuring that car number two was suitably fixed to finish the day's final two stages.

Simon Evans, Car #1, Group N(P):
"We just need to keep driving to the same plan - clean, neat and fast. It's a bit interesting having the classics running in front of us. Last year we were the first car on the road all year and you don't see too many broken down cars, so to come over a crest and see a rolled car is a little daunting, but that's rallying. When they pulled me over on the stage I thought something serious had happened, because you never get pulled over on a stage - but the recovery crew just hadn't found someone in the classics."

Neal Bates, Car #2, S2000:
"I thought I had lost an engine at first, because there was just no power. Then fuel started spilling up onto the windscreen and I realised there was no fuel getting to the engine. It was just one of those unfortunate things that can happen when you are developing a car - the fuel rail bracket has broken due to the constant vibration and the fuel injector has come out of its housing, causing a leak."

Just two more stages and 35 competitive kilometers remain in Heat 1 of Coates Rally Queensland.

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EVANS PICKS UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF


TRD's 2006 Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans has continued his form into the first three stages of 2007 by winning each one.

Evans flew through the first three stages of Heat 1 in 23:54.5, establishing a 19.4s lead over his younger brother Eli, in a Subaru Impreza.

Evans' team mate Neal Bates was happy to be running third in his Super 2000 development Corolla, 36.8s behind the leader.

The first three stages of the day saw Bates resume the season-long battle he fought with Subaru's Dean Herridge last year.

After three stages, Bates has his S2000 car 1.7s ahead of Herridge's upgraded Subaru.

However, Evans was in charge in the car that he won this event, and the NEC Australian Rally Championship last season.

Simon Evans, Car #1, Group N(P):
"I was a little surprised just how quick the time on the first stage was, because we didn't take too many risks. The amount of grip was also surprising - I expected it to be a lot more loose, but there was some really good grip, especially on the first stage. We set the car up to understeer a little bit, which it did, but the car is just fantastic."

Neal Bates, Car #2, S2000:
"That was a bit better than we expected. The car is still a fair bit over the minimum weight for S2000, so we don't have an ideal power to weight ratio. The car handled quite well and ran perfectly - it actually performed best on the stages I thought we'd struggle on. There's still a long way to go and Dean is right behind us, as usual."

There are three more stages and 30 kilometres of rallying before the day's second service.

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TRD SHAKES DOWN COROLLAS, EVANS FASTEST IN PRACTICE


Toyota's 2006 NEC Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans was fastest in shakedown ahead of this weekend's Coates Rally Queensland today.

Evans and team mate Neal Bates got one last chance to blow the cobwebs out in the official practice session before they head into the rally proper tomorrow.

The day marked the first official running of Super 2000 cars in Australian rallying, with two cars representing the new category making their public debut.

Neal Bates' Corolla is last year's Group N(P) car converted to S2000, while Ford had one of its Fiesta S2000 cars running today.

However it was Evans, in the car in which he won last year's championship, that was fastest in the practice session.

"This is the car that we won the Queensland round in last year," he said.

"All these other guys are driving new cars. It's a little bit like shoes - new shoes can hurt, but the old ones are usually really comfortable.

"I am very happy with how the car is going - we've made some changes that have improved the car quite a bit.

"This is my favourite rally, and I can't wait to get into the forest tomorrow."

Neal Bates' goals for the weekend are a little more modest, as he continues development on Toyota's Corolla S2000.

"We want to finish the rally, and hopefully come away with a good bag of points," Bates said.

"We're probably not quite in a position to challenge for outright honours this weekend, but if we get to the end we should be able to get some valuable data on the new car.

"The car is continually getting better."

Coates Rally Queensland's official starting ceremony is tonight in the main street of Coolum, before the competitive stages begin in the forests around Imbil on Saturday morning.

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TOYOTA RALLY CHAMPIONS GET SEAL OF APPROVAL FOR 2007


Toyota's 2006 NEC Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans, and three times Australian Rally Champion Neal Bates, got up close and personal with the seals at the Sunshine Coast's Underwater World today.

The TRD team drivers enjoyed a dip with the facility's star attractions ahead of the season opening Coates Rally Queensland, taking place throughout the Sunshine Coast hinterland this weekend.

The seals puckered up to Evans and Bates in a "make-out session", before the pair dived in with the seals. The rally stars played with the seals, throwing toys and playing tug-of-war.

"They are really playful," said Simon Evans. "They've got a real personality and they seem to enjoy the human contact.

"I was a little unsure as to what it would be like, but I was taken aback by just how social they are.

"They came right up close and brushed up against us - though it wasn't the best kiss I've ever had!"

Neal Bates spent most of his time in the pool playing fetch with a frisky little fur seal.

"She was very cheeky," Bates said. "We had a piece of hose that we played fetch with and when she got it she'd go and hide it from me."

"It was a pretty solid workout, because I don't swim quite as well as the seals.

"I've swum with dolphins before, and they only seem to care about the fish that they're being fed - the seals were a lot happier to interact with us."

The swim provided a welcome diversion to the task of preparing for the first round of the 2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship.

"It's really important to be relaxed going into a rally," said Evans. "It's easy to get too psyched up for an event - but things like this help you keep calm."

The Queensland event this weekend marks the beginning of Evans' title defence after he claimed his first Australian Rally Championship last year.

Evans names Coates Rally Queensland as his favourite event, dominating last year with his co-driver wife Sue, and winning the event on his way to taking out the title.

Team mate Neal Bates finished second in Queensland last season, en route to being runner-up to Evans at the end of the season.

Coates Rally Queensland begins with a fan-friendly Super Special Stage around the Nambour Showgrounds on Friday night.

The majority of the rally takes place throughout Saturday and Sunday in the forests around Imbil in the Sunshine Coast's hinterland.

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