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Toyota's Simon Evans has won his first Australian Rally Championship, clinching the title at the NGK Rally of Melbourne.

The championship is Toyota's first since team-mate Neal Bates won the last of his three consecutive championships in 1995.

Simon and Sue Evans finished the 2006 championship in style by chasing down and passing Mitsubishi's Scott Pedder on the last stage of the day to claim yet another heat win.

In addition to Evans' victory, Bates' third place overall in Melbourne was enough to see Toyota take first and second places in the championship.

Evans' triumph in the drivers' championship is in addition to Toyota's winning the manufacturers' title at last month's Toyota Rally SA.

Both TRD Corollas finished every heat of the 2006 season, while a Corolla was victorious in three of the season's six rounds.

However, the combination of Simon and Sue Evans was the only crew to win more than once throughout the year - at Western Australia's QUIT Forest Rally and Coates Rally Queensland.

Once considered the wild man of Australian rallying, Evans' results in 2006 indicate amazing consistency - two wins, three second places and one fourth position.

Evans was justifiably thrilled to claim his first national title.

"I could not be happier right now," he said.

"Sue and I have sacrificed so much to be where we are. I used to look at factory rally drivers and think how good it must be to be in that position.

"Now I'm doing it, I'm living my dream and I'm the Australian Rally Champion.

"This team is just magnificent. They have made an awesome car, and whenever anything at all goes wrong, they always have it under control.

"I just cannot describe the emotions right now. I always thought that I could get to this point, but there were some times that really made me question it."

It was a satisfying occasion for Neal Bates and Coral Taylor as well. Bates has overseen the development of the Group N(P) Corollas since 2002.

He was overjoyed to see his cars finish first and second in the championship, as well as taking out the manufacturers' title.

"We have worked incredibly hard at developing these cars to the point where they can win rallies - and now championships," he said.

"We've had plenty of ups and downs along the way, which just makes this even sweeter.

"Congratulations to Simon and Sue - they have been very quick and consistent all year and thoroughly deserve the championship.

"When we signed them, we wanted them to win championships for Toyota, and now they have delivered us one.

"We were very consistent all season and got a lot of points, and only one car got more than us - and that was a Toyota so I am happy."

The final results from the NGK Rally of Melbourne saw Mitsubishi's Scott Pedder win the event, from the Evans combination and Bates and Taylor. Subaru's Dean Herridge was fourth.

NGK Rally of Melbourne - Final overall results:

1) S. Pedder


2) S. Evans


3) N. Bates


4) D. Herridge


5) K. Shaw


6) D. Windus



NGK Rally of Melbourne - Final overall results:

1) S. Evans


224 points

2) N. Bates



3) D. Herridge



4) S. Pedder



5) D. Windus



6) S. Reid




Simon And Sue Evans celebrate becoming Australian Rally Champions.