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MELBOURNE VITAL TO TOYOTA'S ARC HOPES

Toyota's local rally team of Neal Bates and Coral Taylor has made significant modifications to its Toyota Corolla in preparation for the Rally of Melbourne.

A win in the event is vital to the team's 1999 championship hopes.

Bates and Taylor are Rally of Melbourne specialists. They have won the event three times in the last six years, including last year.

The 1999 Rally of Melbourne, to be held on August 14-15, is the fourth round of the five-event Australian Rally Championship Super Series.

"We need to win in Melbourne to square up the championship going into the final round in Tasmania," the Canberra driver said.

"Although the grand final carries 50 percent more points, Melbourne is where we need to make our move."

Bates and Taylor have made significant suspension changes since the last event in Perth.

The team has also received a new engine management program from Toyota Team Europe, allowing it to upgrade to a higher octane fuel permitted under the series regulations.

Bates and Taylor finished second in the latest round of the Australian Rally Championship in Perth.

The solid Forest Rally result came after their win in a wet Rally of Queensland in early June. "I'm looking forward to competing in a completely dry rally to show the speed of the Corolla," Bates said. "Melbourne is a very fast rally. The roads provide good grip and are quite smooth, so they suit my driving style."

The Rally of Melbourne will be contested over 14 stages and 183 competitive kilometres in the forests surrounding Healesville and Marysville.

Each leg features two stages, Acheron Way and Ben Cairn, in which Bates traditionally demonstrates his tarmac prowess.

The TTA pair trail Possum Bourne and Craig Vincent by 12 points after three of five rounds.

Meanwhile, Steve Forsberg, the surprise outright leader of the Formula Two category of the ARC, is hoping vehicle reliability will let him preserve his championship lead.

The Newcastle ace's production Toyota Corolla heads to Melbourne with a four-point lead in the F2 championship, ahead of much faster but more fragile opposition.

Network TEN will telecast highlights of the event on consecutive Sundays, August 15 and 22.





 
IMAGES
Neal Bates and Coral Taylor in their Toyota Corolla World Rally Car.