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ALL-OR-NOTHING TOYOTA ASSAULT ON RALLY OF CANBERRA

Toyota driver Neal Bates has promised an all-out attempt to win this weekend’s Rally of Canberra, saying he has "nothing to lose".

The three-time Australian Rally Champion and his co-driver Coral Taylor go into the event as underdogs, knowing they will have to overcome the speed disadvantage of their three-year-old Corolla WRC in comparison to the new car of rival Possum Bourne.

Bates says, however, that the Corolla has never been in better shape, and he is hoping the car’s proven reliability will give them the edge.

“We tested this week and car feels great thanks to the total rebuild and the suspension work we’ve done in recent months,” he said.

“Possum suffered some new car problems in the first round of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) in Perth last month, and if he suffers any more we’ll be right there to take advantage.”

The Canberra event is the second round of the ARC as well as a round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.

As such it counts towards the ARC manufacturers’ title, but not the drivers’ title.

“It wont affect our title chances if we don’t win in Canberra, but having said that it would be a big psychological boost for me and the team to beat Possum here,” said Bates.

Bates and Taylor say they are already feeling confident after another giant-killing performance in the recent Targa Tasmania road rally, in which their nimble Lexus IS200 beat some much more powerful opposition to finish fourth.

“That event was a good example of how underdogs can get a result,” said Bates. “ In some ways I quite enjoy being in this position.”

Bates is hoping for dry weather this weekend, saying the hard condition of the roads around Canberra at the moment will suit the Corolla.

The native Canberran has, however, down-played any suggestion that he will enjoy a home-town advantage in the rally because of his familiarity with the roads.

“Unfortunately in modern pace-noted rallies local knowledge is largely negated, and besides Possum has competed here so many times he knows the roads almost as well as I do,” said Bates.

The 2001 Rally of Canberra begins on Friday May 4 and will run over three days in forests near the national capital.



 
IMAGES
Neal Bates and Coral Taylor with their Toyota WRC Corolla prepare for the Rally of Canberra.