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2007 Rally of Melbourne

  1. EVANS SECURES VICTORY AND CLAIMS HISTORIC ARC TITLE
  2. CLOSE BATTLE TO START SEASON-ENDING HEAT
  3. SIMON EVANS SECURES 2007 ARC DRIVERS' TITLE
  4. ONE HAND ON THE TROPHY FOR EVANS
  5. EVANS ON TOP EARLY
  6. READY FOR THE FINAL BATTLE

EVANS SECURES VICTORY AND CLAIMS HISTORIC ARC TITLE


TRD's Simon Evans has become the first driver in Australian Rally Championship Super Series history to win every heat in a season following his victory in Heat 2 of the season-ending NGK Rally of Melbourne.

Evans took a hard-fought win over Ford's Michael Guest, securing victory in the final heat of 2007 by just 11 seconds.

The now two-time ARC champion secured his second title with victory in Saturday's Heat 1, before maintaining focus throughout the day's eight stages to take an historic clean-sweep of all 12 heats in the 2007 season.

Evans and his co-driver wife Sue were equally-pleased they achieved their history-making moment at their home event in front of a large contingent of family and friends.

The duo was honoured after the final stage at the Healesville Sportsground with a lap of honour, where Simon took the liberty of performing a series of crowd-pleasing doughnuts.

Team-mates Neal Bates and Coral Taylor finished Heat 2 in fourth place and despite being disappointed with their Sunday performance, they did enough during Heat 1 to claim third overall for the rally.

Bates struggled for grip in his S2000 Corolla throughout the second heat, finishing more than
one minute behind Evans.

However, the three-time champion was pleased with the 100 per cent reliability of the S2000 Corolla in its development year, something that assisted him in securing second in the drivers' title to lock in a TRD 1-2.

Privateer Stewart Reid made his first appearance of the year in his ex-TRD Group N (P) Corolla and finished sixth in Heat 2 in what was a trial run for a planned full-assault on the 2008 ARC championship.

The NGK Rally of Melbourne was the last event for the Group N (P) Corolla, with Evans set to
switch to an S2000-spec Corolla for the 2008 season that kicks off in Queensland in early March.

Simon Evans, #1, Group N (P) Corolla:
"It feels pretty special to be the first driver to clean-sweep a season. I put a lot of pressure on myself and to get to the end of it, I have really started to appreciate what we have done. I am starting to realise it now and it is really surreal. When you work hard the rewards come. I haven't really thought about what we have done during the last two years, but looking back on it now I just think 'wow'. This victory really rams home what Sue and I and the team have achieved. Our will and desire to win was so great this year. I didn't plan to win every heat of every event, but we have and we've won the championship in style. It has been great fun and Sue and I have had an absolute ball. Today was tough. Guesty (Michael Guest) came out hard and we really had to work for it all day. I was really nervous at the start of the final stage because I knew we pretty much had it all wrapped up. But it all went well and we now can switch our focus to next year and an exciting new challenge with the S2000 Corolla."

Neal Bates, #2, S2000 Corolla:
"It was a very tough rally. We ended up third overall so we can't complain. It was incredibly slippery but the car has been unbelievably reliable and it is pretty remarkable that both our cars have finished every heat for the last two years - it is a real credit to Toyota, the entire crew, drivers and co-drivers. It is amazing that we have had such a great run and it is very satisfying. We have the best drivers in the championship and we understand what it takes to win. We will have a very busy off-season improving the S2000 and Simon and Sue will have a lot of work to do to get used to it and adjust it to suit them. It has been incredibly strong and very reliable, but we are working on its weaker points to make it faster. Simon and Sue have done the most unbelievably fantastic job. They have been perfect, are on top of their game and are the best crew in Australian rallying at the moment by a considerable margin."

NEC Australian Rally Championship
NGK Rally of Melbourne - Heat 1
Final Results:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N (Prototype) 1:16:46.1
2) Spencer Lowndes Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +1:03.3
3) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla Super 2000 +1:56.7
4) Brett Kipling Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +4:50.2
5) Michael Guest Ford Fiesta Super 2000 +5:34.9
6) David Hills Mitsubishi Lancer +5:50.6
14) Paul Gover Toyota Corolla Group N (P) +14:38.4

NEC Australian Rally Championship
NGK Rally of Melbourne - Heat 2
Final Results:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N (Prototype) 57:58.1
2) Michael Guest Ford Fiesta Super 2000 +11.0
3) Spencer Lowndes Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +26.5
4) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla Super 2000 +1:16.3
5) Justin Dowel Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +2:37.9
6) Stewart Reid Toyota Corolla Group N (Prototype) +4:00.1
12) Paul Gover Toyota Corolla Group N (Prototype) +5:14.5

NEC Australian Rally Championship
NGK Rally of Melbourne
Overall Results:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N (P) Corolla
2) Spencer Lowndes Mitsubishi Lancer EVO
3) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000
4) Michael Guest Ford Fiesta S2000
5) Brett Kipling Mitsubishi Lancer EVO
6) David Hills Mitsubishi Lancer

NEC Australian Rally Championship
Final Overall Standings:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N (P) - 524.5 points
2) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 - 368
3) Dean Herridge Subaru Impreza WRX - 264
4) Michael Guest Ford Fiesta S2000 - 228
5) Spencer Lowndes Mitsubishi Lancer EVO - 228
6) Brendan Reeves Subaru Impreza WRX - 182

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CLOSE BATTLE TO START SEASON-ENDING HEAT


Fresh from claiming his second ARC drivers' title, TRD's Simon Evans has started Heat 2 of the NGK Rally of Melbourne in the same way that he ended Heat 1 - in the lead.

However, Evans is locked in a tight battle with Ford's Michael Guest and holds a slender 6.9s lead following the first four stages of Heat 2.

Guest shot out of the blocks, winning the heat's first two stages to take an early lead, before Evans fought back in his Group N (P) Corolla on stage three - the rally's longest.

The two-time champion set a time more than 30-seconds faster than he did on the same stage during Heat 1, before taking the lead at the end of stage four.

Neal Bates has endured a much tougher morning than his team-mate with a broken front sway bar reducing the grip level of his S2000 Corolla.

Despite the problem, Bates was still able to set reasonable stage times and lies fourth overall at the day's first service.

TRD's service crew have repaired the broken sway bar and Bates is aiming to recover to third so he can finish the season with a podium place.

Simon Evans, #1, Group N (P) Corolla:
"It was back to business today - just like going to work on a Monday morning. We slipped straight back into the groove, although the day's first two stages were quite slippery so we took it easy. We picked it up a bit after that and now we are back in the lead. Michael (Guest) really was on a charge this morning and put the pressure on me, but I stepped it up and that is what you have to do to win championships. The pressure is back on him now. We can control the rally from where we are, so we will go out there and see if we can finish the job we started yesterday."

Neal Bates, #2, S2000 Corolla:
"This morning we struggled for grip and certainly were not doing the times we should have been. We have changed the broken sway bar and that should give us the grip we were missing this morning. We have a bit of a deficit to third place, but we will go out there and see what we can do this afternoon. I am really looking forward to the two special stages at Healesville so I think we should go well there."

Only four stages remain in the season-ending NGK Rally of Melbourne and Simon Evans is well-poised to close his championship-winning season with overall victory in his home event.

NGK Rally of Melbourne - Heat 2.
Results after SS14:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N (Prototype) 40:10.5
2) Michael Guest Ford Fiesta Super 2000 +6.9
3) Spencer Lowndes Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +21.1
4) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla Super 2000 +49.9
5) Glen Raymond Subaru Impreza WRX +1:04.2
6) Justin Dowel Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +1:52.6

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SIMON EVANS SECURES 2007 ARC DRIVERS' TITLE


TRD's Simon Evans has won back-to-back Australian Rally Championship drivers' titles following a commanding victory in Heat 1 of the season-ending NGK Rally of Melbourne.

Evans and his co-driver wife Sue took their 11th-straight heat win of the season and added the 2007 ARC Driver and Co-driver titles to the Manufacturers' Championship the team secured at the last round in New South Wales.

The Evans duo was especially proud to secure the title at their home event in front of a large group of family and friends.

However, the pair is focussed on taking overall victory and securing a clean-sweep of all six rounds of the 2007 championship.

The Evans' Group N (P) Corolla led home the Mitsubishi Lancer of Spencer Lowndes who finished second and the S2000 Corolla of team-mate Neal Bates, who in taking third for the heat secured second place in the drivers' championship.

Bates spent the afternoon recovering from the rear suspension problem that lost him time during the morning stages of Heat 1.

The three-time champion signalled his intentions for Sunday's Heat 2 by taking a well-deserved stage win on the 10th and final stage of the day.

In a testament to the reliability of the two Corollas, both he and Evans avoided the high-attrition rate that caused a large portion of the field to retire from Heat 1.

Simon Evans, #1, Group N (P):
"This is fantastic. We have worked really hard all year and you get out of it what you put into it. And although I am really happy that we have won the heat and secured the title, the rally isn't over yet and I want to win every heat. I put a lot of pressure on myself to back it up this year and it is different to the first title. It is less emotional but to do it in the way we have is fantastic, but I tell you what. I am going to hate the day we come second. But it is not just me - it is the whole team, the car and of course Sue. The team works so hard to give me a car that I pound and punish and drive into the ground at every event and the Corolla hasn't missed a beat all year. But, as soon as we crossed the line I said to Sue, 'that'll do - let's get the job finished tomorrow'. It is not time to celebrate yet as I want to win this rally and we have come so close in recent years that we need a win here. In my opinion true champions finish in the way they started. We started with a win, so I want to finish with another one."

Neal Bates, #2: S2000:
"First of all I would like to congratulate Simon and Sue. They have done a great job all year and they thoroughly deserve their championship. Our afternoon wasn't so good. I had a little spin but to win the last stage was a good result and made the day a little better. For tomorrow we will look at a few things on the car and see what we can do to try and make it better. The two titles are a satisfying thing. We have developed both cars ourselves and from a team perspective that is something we should be very proud of."

Evans is focussed on securing victory in tomorrow's Heat 2, but with Bates back on the pace, there will be a tight battle to the finish of the NGK Rally of Melbourne.

Rally of Melbourne - Heat 1.
Final Results.
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N (Prototype) 1:16:46.1
2) Spencer Lowndes Mitsubishi Lancer EVO Group N +1:03.3
3) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla Super 2000 +1:56.7
4) Brett Kipling Mitsubishi Lancer EVO Group N +4:50.2
5) Michael Guest Ford Fiesta Super 2000 +5:34.9
6) David Hills Mitsubishi Lancer +5:50.6
14) Paul Gover Toyota Corolla Group N (P) +14:38.4

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ONE HAND ON THE TROPHY FOR EVANS


Simon Evans has maintained his grip on the lead of the NGK Rally of Melbourne and is now just five stages away from being crowd 2007 ARC drivers' champion after another impressive display of driving.

Evans successfully tackled two of the event's longest stages, pulling out a 42.2s lead over new second place runner Spencer Lowndes.

Evans and his co-driver wife Sue comfortably won stage four and finished a close second to the Mitsubishi of Lowndes on stage five.

Neal Bates recovered well from his morning problems, climbing up to third overall thanks to solid driving and a high attrition rate that claimed stage one winner Darren Windus and young Subaru driver Brendan Reeves.

Bates was happy he recovered to the top-three and is now 21.5s behind Lowndes.
The team's third car - a Group N (P) Corolla - piloted by guest driver Paul Gover was slowed by a turbo problem and he now sits 19th overall.

Simon Evans, #1, Group N (P):
"I haven't been thinking about the title. We are just focussing on one corner at a time and we are having a ball out there but our main aim is to bring the Corolla home safe. The stages are quite rough and it is really tough out there - this is a very tough Rally of Melbourne."

Neal Bates, #2: S2000:
"This morning we had a problem with the rear end that cost us a little bit of time but it is all good now and we have worked our way back up to third. It has been a rally of high attrition so we have probably moved up a little faster than we would have imagined. It is really slippery and rough out there but I have a lot of experience and that has probably helped me pull back some time. You have to get to the finish to get a result so we will keep trying to do that."

If Evans remains in front for the final five stages of Heat 1he will take back-to-back NEC Australian Rally Championship drivers' titles.

NGK Rally of Melbourne - Heat 1.
Results after SS5:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N (Prototype) 49:39.5
2) Spencer Lowndes Mitsubishi Lancer EVO Group N +40.4
3) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla Super 2000 +1:01.9
4) Michael Guest Ford Fiesta Super 2000 +2:43.4
5) Brett Kipling Mitsubishi Lancer EVO Group N +2:48.3
6) Brenton Kaitler Mitsubishi Lancer EVO Group N +2:49.6

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EVANS ON TOP EARLY


Spurred on by the bumper home crowd that attended Friday night's ceremonial start at Docklands, TRD's Simon Evans has set a blistering pace during the first three stages of Heat 1 of the Rally of Melbourne, opening up a 24.1s lead over the chasing pack.

Evans asserted his authority early, putting in a dominant performance on stage two that saw him set a time 15.2s faster than the Ford Fiesta of second place driver Darren Windus.

The defending champion put his local knowledge to good use on the 18-kilometre long second stage despite finding the road conditions quite loose and slippery.

Team-mate Neal Bates started strongly, but a rear control arm came lose near the end of stage two, forcing him to slow and dropping him to fifth overall.

Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor backed off slightly during stage three in order to get their S2000 Corolla back to service where the team was able to fix the problem.

With his car repaired, Bates is looking to climb back up the order to chase his goal of finishing second in the championship.

Guest driver Paul Gover has had a strong morning, setting consistent stage times and lies 11th overall.

Simon Evans, #1, Group N (P):
"The car felt great out there - I am really happy. I drove just the same during stage two so I am not sure how I gained so much time. Perhaps everyone else backed off? But I really enjoyed this morning's stages so perhaps that is it. The Roads have been graded so there is a lot of loose gravel. We can hear it hitting the bottom of the car as we drive over it. But it is all going great - we have made the perfect start."

Neal Bates, #2: S2000:
"Something happened at the end of the second stage. I noticed the wheel alignment was out on the transport to stage three as it was not turning in very well and I had trouble steering. But the guys have fixed it and we will be right for this afternoon. I don't think we hit anything but it is really rough out there so that probably contributed to it. But to be fast on these rough roads you have to push and that is what we will do for the rest of the day.

There are two stages until the next scheduled service, including Paradise, the event's longest stage at 24.8 kilometres.

Rally of Melbourne - Heat 1.
Results after SS3:
1) Simon Evans Toyota Corolla Group N (Prototype) 25:41.0
2) Darren Windus Ford Fiesta Super 2000 +24.2
3) Spencer Lowndes Mitsubishi Lancer EVO Group N +31.5
4) Brendan Reeves Subaru Impreza WRX Group N +39.6
5) Neal Bates Toyota Corolla Super 2000 +42.1
6) Brenton Kaitler Mitsubishi Lancer EVO Group N +1:24.5

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READY FOR THE FINAL BATTLE


The stage is set for an exciting end to the 2007 NEC Australian Rally Championship season following a successful shakedown by championship protagonists Simon Evans and Neal Bates ahead of this weekend's NGK Rally of Melbourne.

The TRD duo completed their final preparations by setting the two fastest times during shakedown in the Victorian town of Healesville just an hour north of Melbourne, running in hot, dry and dusty conditions.

Defending champion Evans is well-placed to reclaim his title and requires just 18th place in one of the weekend's two heats to make it back-to-back crowns.

The Victorian and his co-driver wife Sue have had a stellar year, winning every heat and taking overall honours at all five rounds, but they both know their season will not be complete without victory at their home event.

Bates is the only driver with a mathematical chance of beating Evans to the title and even though the odds are slim, it is one of his favourite events and he is happy with the way his S2000 is performing on the fast forest roads.

Team TRD is also running a third car this weekend for News Limited motoring journalist Paul Gover.

Gover was actually the first person to ever compete in a rally for Toyota Australia and is a good chance to score a top-10 finish as he will be piloting a Group N (P) Corolla - the same style of car that has taken Evans to five round victories in 2007.

And as a thank-you from one championship-winning team to another, Brett White from the NRL Premiership-winning Melbourne Storm came for a ride with avid Storm fan Simon Evans. White presented a very-chuffed Evans with an official playing jersey after his ride which he described as "way better than a ride in a V8 Supercar".

Simon Evans, #1, Group N (P) Corolla:
"I have only won my home event once and finished second three times so I want to win and get out there and do the job. It has happened for us at every event so we will just keep doing the same thing as we have been. The competition has been strong in recent rounds and it looks like it will be again this weekend, from not only Neal, but the Fords of Michael Guest and Darren Windus and also young gun Brendan Reeves. But if we can secure a 1-2 for the season then our job is done and it is a great result for Toyota. Standing on the top step of the podium is what it is all about."

Neal Bates, #2, S2000 Corolla:
"There is still a lot to achieve even though the drivers' championship is all but over. There is a mathematical chance that Coral (Taylor) and I can take it out but given what Simon has done this year I think he should be the winner. This is going to be one of the toughest rallies of Melbourne ever. It is much rougher than it normally is in these forests. There is a lot of imbedded rocks and I think there will be a higher than normal attrition rate. But we are going out there to win a rally and hopefully we can lock down a 1-2 in the championship. It will be a great year for the team if we can do that as it will sit nicely next to the manufacturers' title."

The NGK Rally of Melbourne gets underway tonight with a ceremonial start at Docklands in Melbourne's CBD before the first competitive stages tomorrow morning in and around the Yarra Valley.

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