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The Toyota team of Neal Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor will end an era when they compete in the fourth round of the Australian Rally Championship Super Series near Hobart this weekend (August 4-5).
The Saxon Safari will be the last Tasmanian event the pair compete in for Toyota, bringing to an end an unbroken run stretching back to 1993.

Toyota Australia will end its local rally program in November.

The pair have set their sights on a final win in Tasmania, and Bates believes their Corolla World Rally Car will be competitive on the fast, hard roads around Hobart.

“I think Tassie should suit us and we’re hoping to put some pressure on Possum,” said Bates.

Bates trails Possum Bourne 100 to 116 points in the driver’s standings, but with Saxon Safari to run, and double points available at the following Rally of Melbourne, the championship is far from decided.

Bates and co-driver Taylor have a strong record going into the event.

The three-time Australia Rally Champions took victory in Tasmania in 1993, ‘95 and ’99, and have won the Melbourne event for the last three years in a row.

At last year’s Saxon Safari their title challenge was derailed by a pre-event testing accident which seriously damaged the car.

A hasty rebuild was followed by some minor mechanical problems which dropped Bates and Taylor to a 15th place finish in Heat One.

While the Toyota team recovered to take a strong second place in Heat Two, their 2000 title hopes had been dashed.

“This year we’re aiming to collect as many points as we can in Tassie, and make up for last year’s disappointment. Providing we have a good result there, it will be all to play for when we get to Melbourne,” said Bates.

The Saxon Safari presents some unique challenges for competitors, including the possibility of snow.

Last year’s rally was affected by light snow in the hills behind Hobart, even though it was run in September.

With this year’s rally being run in the dead of winter, the Toyota team is bracing itself for the possibility of even more snow.

“If they do have a heavy dump there, it will make things extremely difficult for competitors, because Australian rally rules do not allow us to use studded tyres,” said Bates.

The Saxon Safari Rally begins in Hobart at 10am on August 4 with a Super Special stage at the Derwent Entertainment Centre, and finishes with another stage at the DEC the following day at 2.30pm.

Neal Bates and Coral Taylor will compete in their last Tasmanian rally for Toyota this weekend.