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BATES BIDS FOR NATIONAL RALLY TITLE

Toyota's Neal Bates plans to continue the trend set by the Wallabies in the Bledisloe Cup when he battles Kiwi-driver Possum Bourne for the Australian Rally Championship at the Super Series title decider in Tasmania.

Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor need to win both heats of the Hobart-based Saxon Safari on 11-12 September to beat perennial rivals Bourne and Craig Vincent to the title.

The Toyota Team Australia pair lead the ARC following a dramatic victory in heat two of the Rally of Melbourne last month.

They head to the finale in Tasmania with an eight point lead on unadjusted points in the driver's title.

Should Bates win both heats of the Safari he will be the Australian Rally Championship's driver of the decade, with three national titles already under his belt.

"It's not an easy task to win both heats in Tasmania, but I'll be giving it 110 percent on roads which suit both the Corolla and my driving style," Bates said.

"Our tyre package worked well in Melbourne, and the conditions in the Saxon Safari are traditionally very similar to the Victorian event.

"Australians seem to have had the upper hand over the Kiwis in cricket and rugby this year. Hopefully that will extend to motorsport."

Bates has won the Tasmanian round twice previously and is looking forward to returning to the state where he enjoys a strong and enthusiastic following.

"We have always had strong support in Tasmania competing in both the Saxon Safari and Targa," he said.

Bates also praised his team for their massive effort in repairing the Corolla after its heat one rollover in the Rally of Melbourne, where they replaced every panel and all glass on the car.

The repair job also included replacing the Corolla's rear suspension and rear cross member.

The Saxon Safari will feature 13 special stages with a total distance of 216 kilometres.

It carries 50 percent more points than the previous four rounds and will decide the 1999 national title.

The co-driver's championship will also be decided in Tasmania, with Coral Taylor gunning for her fourth Australian title.

Newcastle's Steve Forsberg is in contention for the Formula Two title in his production Corolla.





 
IMAGES
Neal Bates in his Toyota Corolla World Rally Car at the 1999 Rally of Melbourne.