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Toyota’s Neal Bates is making a determined charge to improve the position of his Corolla World Rally Car on the leader board mid-way through Leg 2 of Telstra Rally Australia.

With 15 of 23 special stages complete, Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor are in eighth position, less than 10 seconds behind the Peugeot of Finland’s Marcus Gronholm.

Toyota Team Australia began the day in ninth place, but the exit of third-placed Colin McRae in a high speed spin on the first stage of the day moved Bates and Taylor up one spot.

While Bates spent much of Leg One chasing the Ford Focus WRC of Thomas Radstrom, the Swede has now moved almost 50 seconds clear into sixth spot.

Despite the top ten leader board changing around him this morning, Bates has continued to hold down eighth place during the four forest stages contested so far today with a trouble free run.

After running third on the road yesterday, selection of starting positions by the top drivers last night saw Bates begin Leg 2 at 10th on the road, immediately following Toyota Team Europe stablemate Carlos Sainz.

~The road is still quite dug up in some places, but we are happy with our starting position,~ Bates said.

All drivers commented Leg 2 roads were much faster than those of the previous day, leading to speculation about the increased risks of high speed spins following the McRae incident.

Bates and Taylor continue to lead the Australian contingent, nearest rivals Ed Ordynski (Mitsubishi) and Australian Group N champion Cody Crocker (Subaru) in 14th and 15th place outright respectively.

Ordynski and Crocker are staging an epic Group N battle, the Mitsubishi master holding a slim eight second advantage after SS15, Stirling East.

Neal Bates and Coral Taylor in action in the 1999 Rally of Perth in their Toyota Corolla World Rally Car.