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Three times Australian rally champions Neal Bates and Coral Taylor (Toyota Corolla World Rally Car) will begin an intensive training program after tying with defending titleholder Possum Bourne in the opening round of the Australian Rally Championship.
Bates and co-driver Taylor won the first leg of the Respect Yourself Forest Rally in Perth and came second to Bourne in leg two to tie the event result.

~It's a great start to the season - but we know we have to find more car speed,~ Bates said.

~Observers at the rally said we had more corner speed than Bourne, but we need to find greater straight line speed as well.~

Bates scored a first-up advantage over Bourne by using F1-style tyre warmers to put heat in his tyres for the opening bitumen stages of the event.

He claimed a three second win on stage one in the dash around the Busselton foreshore south of Perth, then won the second after Bourne spun out.

It was only the second time tyre warmers had been used in an Australian rally. They are banned from international competition.

Bates consolidated by beating Bourne on two of the eight forest stages to claim a leg one win 45 seconds ahead of the five times national titleholder.

Leg two, held solely on gravel roads, favoured Bourne whose average time was 0.7secs per kilometre faster than the Corolla team.

Remaining championship events will now be held on the east coast and around Adelaide - roads which better suit Bates' driving style.

~Perth is historically my worst event and Possum's best, so to come away from there tied is a great result,~ Bates said.

~On the tighter east coast rallies the Corolla's corner speed will be an advantage but we still need to work on finding more straight line pace.~

Bates' world rally car Corolla is now four years old. Toyota has ended its works rally team development to concentrate on its massive entry into Formula One Racing next year.

Bourne's new car is a 2000 model.

It was driven by four times world champion Juha Kankunnen in a world title event only late last year.

The next round of the national rally manufacturers' championship is Rally of Canberra in early May, and the next drivers' title super series round is Rally of Queensland in June.

Neal Bates and Coral Taylor on their way to victory in the first leg of the Respect Yourself Forest Rally in WA.