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2005 Rally of Canberra

  1. BATES RETURNS TO HOME GROUND
  2. TTR TUNES UP FOR SEASON DEBUT
  3. TTR FLYING IN THE CANBERRA FORESTS
  4. TTR ON THE PACE IN CAPITAL RALLY
  5. TRIPLE TREAT FOR TTR IN CAPITAL RALLY
  6. TTR SURVIVE DRAMAS TO STAY ON TOP IN CAPITAL RALLY
  7. TTR BATTLES ROUGH ROADS TO CLAIM THE CAPITAL RALLY

BATES RETURNS TO HOME GROUND


20 April 2005

Toyota Team Racing driver Neal Bates will be back competing on home soil for the first time in four years when he tackles this weekend’s Capital Rally in Canberra.
The Capital Rally is being run in conjunction with the opening round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the Rally of Canberra.

Bates has won the Rally of Canberra on two previous occasions, in 1995 and 1997, both times with co-driver Coral Taylor.

Although regulations preclude the hometown hero from running in the main Asia-Pacific event, the piggyback Capital Rally offers an opportunity for Toyota to score manufacturers’ points in the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship. Bates and Taylor will be joined in revamped TTR Toyota Corollas by 2004 team mates Simon and Sue Evans from Victoria, and New South Welshmen Ben Barker and Damien Long.

Bates is relishing the opportunity of again competing on roads he knows better than most in the field, having competed and tested in the Canberra forests regularly since he started rally driving in 1984 at the age of 18.

However, he does not expect local knowledge to play a big part in the final results.

"This is a good rally for me because it’s my home event, but I haven’t done it for four years," said Bates after official testing on Tuesday.

“I do know the roads well and feel comfortable there because I cut my teeth on them 20 years ago, but all the other drivers know those roads pretty well by now.”

The three-time national rally champion said he was looking forward to really attacking the event with only winning in mind because the rally did not count towards the season-long Globalstar Australian Rally Championship points score for drivers.

“Of course, we’ll be looking to score maximum manufacturer points, but the drivers’ championship is our main focus, so we can go out and have a good go, which should be fun.”

Simon Evans will contest the event for the first time as a Toyota factory team driver, but was an event regular previously as a privateer.

However, he has not finished the event since 1999 and his two most recent outings lasted only three kilometres (2003) and one stage (2002).

The Canberra event will be the first for the 2005 specification TTR Corollas, which should benefit from a number of off-season developments.

Bates and Evans will both drive brand new Corollas and they expect the 2005 models will handle better and be more reliable than last year’s cars.

…/ends19320 (v X0573)

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TTR TUNES UP FOR SEASON DEBUT


TTR TUNES UP FOR SEASON DEBUT

Toyota Team Racing (TTR) prepared for the weekend’s Capital Rally in Canberra with a strong hit-out in the Kowen Forest this morning.

Team boss Neal Bates was confident of a strong showing in the rally, which is being run in conjunction with the opening round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the Rally of Canberra.

Bates has won the Rally of Canberra on two previous occasions, in 1995 and 1997, both times with co-driver Coral Taylor.

Although regulations preclude the hometown hero from running in the main Asia-Pacific event, the piggyback Capital Rally offers an opportunity for Toyota to score manufacturers’ points in the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship.
Bates said all three Toyotas were in good shape for tomorrow’s rally.

"The cars feel very, very good. Everyone was really happy after testing and we’re looking forward to the weekend to see where we are pace-wise in the championship," he said,

He said TTR would be hampered somewhat by having to start late in the running order, behind the leading Australian and international competitors.

“I think there are stages where we’ll have an advantage and stages where we’ll be disadvantaged. There will be some roads that are going to dig up badly, so we’ll just have to see how it pans out,” he said.

TTR driver Simon Evans said the team was looking forward to competing on home soil.

“Obviously, we’re fairly confident on these roads because it’s where we do most of our testing,” he said.

But he still expected the rally to be hard on cars.

“This is a very tough rally. The roads are so narrow and so rough that the smartest driver will win,” he said.

Bates and Evans had a couple of VIP passengers for today’s shakedown session, with Canberra Raiders Jason Croker and Lincoln Withers strapping themselves into the TTR Corollas.

The pair will be key members in the Raiders team that takes on the Melbourne Storm at Canberra Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Ends

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TTR FLYING IN THE CANBERRA FORESTS


Simon Evans set a scorching pace in the first three stages of the Capital Rally in Canberra this morning, opening up a 15 second gap on team mate Neal Bates, with Ben Barker third.

Evans’ times were faster than the leading drivers in the parallel Asia-Pacific Championship Rally of Canberra.

The popular Victorian hurtled through the forest 11 seconds faster than Subaru’s Dean Herridge, who is leading the Rally of Canberra.

Neal Bates set the third fastest time of the morning in the two rallies, finishing 15 seconds behind Evans.

TTR’s Ben Barker had a sensational start to the morning, setting the second fastest time on the opening stage before a loose fire extinguisher cost him valuable time on the second stage.

The young driver had to stop his car to sort out the problem, losing about 25 seconds in the process.

"I was coming into a hard braking error and the fire extinguisher just unclipped itself and started working its way under the brake and accelerator so we had to stop and re-attach it," he said.

“It was disappointing but we’ve got a great car today so we’ll keep pressing on,” he said.

Evans was satisfied with his morning work.

“The car is just sitting on the road so well. It feels like we’re part of it,” he said.

“I feel sorry for Neal and Ben behind me because it’s very dusty out there,” he said.

Bates said visibility was particularly poor on the opening stage.

“It was very dusty out there and particularly hard to see with the sun in your eyes so I took it pretty cautiously. The next couple of stages were better and the car’s going really well and feeling great,” he said.

Ends

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TTR ON THE PACE IN CAPITAL RALLY


Toyota Team Racing’s Simon Evans leads the Capital Rally in Canberra by 3.5 seconds from team mate Neal Bates, with TTR’s Ben Barker lying third, a further 34.5 seconds behind.

The trio are matching the pace of the leading competitors in the Asia Pacific Championship Rally of Canberra, with Evans just 1.3sec behind leader Cody Crocker.

Evans, who had outpaced the Rally of Canberra cars in the morning stages, suffered from a wrong tyre choice in the latter stages.

"I made a bit of a mistake with my tyre choice at the first service. I didn’t change the fronts to the rear and I’ve paid the penalty a bit" he said.

“But overall the car’s doing a fantastic job,” he said.

Barker continued to underline his potential by pushing his more experienced team mates all the way, despite an off-road excursion on one stage.

“The car feels great and we’re beginning to find our feet out there. We’ve still got a lot of learning to do, we made a few mistakes and lost some time, but I’m happy with where we are,” he said.

“The roads are getting really chopped up out there and its very slippery in places. I’m just trying to keep it neat and stay on top of it,” he said.

Bates was pleased with his pace, after closing the gap on Evans in the middle stages of the day.

“Everything’s going well and the Corolla feels incredibly strong and stable,” he said.

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TRIPLE TREAT FOR TTR IN CAPITAL RALLY


Toyota Team Racing finished one-two-three on day one of Canberra’s Capital Rally today, with Simon Evans beating home team mates Neal Bates and Ben Barker in a closely fought tussle.

Evans finished the day just 15.3 seconds ahead of Bates, with Barker a further 37.1sec behind.

The drivers traded fastest stage times throughout the day, with Barker beating his more seasoned team mates on two stages.

Toyota privateer Martin Lintott finished fourth in his Corolla Sportivo.

The TTR trio matched the pace of the leading competitors in the Asia Pacific Championship’s Rally of Canberra, being conducted in tandem with the Capital Rally.

Regulations preclude the prototype Corollas running in the Asia-Pacific event, but they are eligible to score manufacturers’ points in the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship during the weekend.

In the contest between manufacturers, Bates and Evans are well-placed to score valuable points, with Evans lying just 15.7 seconds behind Crocker in the first of the Subarus.

Subaru’s Dean Herridge is just 6.5secs in front of Evans.

Bates was pleased with the team’s performance in difficult conditions.

The first of the Corollas started 19th on the road today and as a result had to deal with badly chopped up road conditions and thick dust, particularly in the afternoon.

"The conditions were very rough and visibility was terrible in the afternoon," he said.

“But overall I was very happy with the performance of all three cars this afternoon. I think we’ve got the package to take the fight to Subaru this year,” he said.

Evans was satisfied with his result and the performance of the Corolla.

“It’s a lot more stable in the rougher conditions and the power is more useable across the rev range,” he said.

Barker was delighted with his pace.

“I’m really happy with the way things went. We had really good speed right out of the blocks and that’s what we’ve been working on,” he said.

The Capital Rally continues tomorrow.

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TTR SURVIVE DRAMAS TO STAY ON TOP IN CAPITAL RALLY


Toyota Team Racing retained its grip on the top three places in the Capital Rally, Canberra, despite a morning of dramas that included two flat tyres for rally leader Simon Evans.

The TTR trio of Evans, Neal Bates and Ben Barker, started the morning in impressive fashion, outshining competitors in the parallel Rally of Canberra event by setting the three top times on the first stage.

But drama struck the team on stage 12 when Barker’s power steering failed, forcing the young driver to wrestle his Corolla around the next three stages.

Evans then struck trouble with two flat tyres on the next two stages, the second one seven kilometres from the end of the stage.

It was a disappointing turn of events after his blistering start to the day.

"The first stages had no road damage on them and they were beautiful to drive on. But in the later stages, the road conditions were terrible. The previous cars had dug up big rocks and they were lying all over the road," he said.

Bates also found trouble in the rough conditions, hitting a rock and damaging the car’s steering.

But overall he was pleased with the speed of all three Corollas.

“The cars are looking really good. We’ve got a little bit more work to do but we’re getting very, very close,” he said.

Barker was exhausted by first service.

“It was incredibly hard work out there. You start to get very heavy in the arms towards the end of stages and it’s really hard to get the car turn in - we lost a lot of time. But we’re still here and still enjoying ourselves so we’ll get it fixed up and go again,” he said.

Bates predicted the afternoon stages would be hard work, particularly the daunting Mineshaft stage.

“It is a very difficult stage and I’m sure it will be a telling moment in the rally. You’ve just got to concentrate all the time and keep it clean,” he said.

The rally concludes this afternoon.

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TTR BATTLES ROUGH ROADS TO CLAIM THE CAPITAL RALLY


Toyota Team Racing has battled treacherous road conditions to claim a one-two victory in the Capital Rally today.

Simon Evans brought his Corolla home first, 3min9sec ahead of Neal Bates, who was forced to nurse his car home after breaking a driveshaft on the daunting Mineshaft stage.

Ben Barker, who had shown impressive speed yesterday, also struck trouble on Mineshaft after bottoming out on a jump and damaging his transmission.

"We had a bad run through a group of crests and ultimately hit a jump too hard and flew too far. When we landed we damaged the front end and cracked the transmission," he said,

Despite the incidents, all three drivers showed enough form to suggest they will be in the hunt for glory in the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship this year.

Evans was satisfied with his first competition hit-out since the Rally of Melbourne last year.

“It’s good to do some kilometres and this is the ideal test session going into Perth,” he said.

“It was a very tough rally, extremely rough and the Corolla’s shown its true colours again. The car’s just so strong,” he said.

He said the off-season development program had delivered big improvements over the 2004 Corolla that took him to 3rd in the drivers’ championship.

“It’s definitely easier to drive, especially over the rough stuff. The boys have obviously worked very hard on the suspension and there’s a bit more power up top which makes it a lot easier to drive,” he said,

Bates was also happy with the hit-out.

“I’m very satisfied from a testing point of view. We finished first and second in the rally, so you can’t complain about that. I think it’s going to be a very good battle for the ARC this year,” he said.

“The car’s definitely better than it was last year. The Subarus are obviously still very quick but will do some more work before Perth and see how we go,” he said.

Toyota scored valuable manufacturers’ points this weekend, after Evans and Bates came home 3rd and 6th in the combined results of the Capital Rally and the parallel Asia-Pacific event, the Rally of Canberra.

But the team was hampered by the dual-rally format of the weekend.

Competitors in the international Rally of Canberra started first, which meant TTR started almost an hour behind the first cars on the road and had to battle ever-worsening conditions in the afternoon stages.

But the trio underlined the potential of the 2005 Corolla by outpacing the leading Rally of Canberra cars on a number of stages.

The opening round of the Globalstar ARC drivers’ championship begins in Western Australia on May 14-16.

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