Experienced Australian rally duo Neal Bates and Coral Taylor endured mixed fortunes in their highly-anticipated return to Rally Australia where they were eventually forced out this morning on the final day of the event.
The four-time Australian Rally Champions rejoined the action this morning after missing yesterday afternoon’s stages due to a punctured radiator.
Bates and Taylor set competitive times in the morning and looked set to claim seventh in the production category until they were forced to retire after stage 30 due to a broken oil line fitting.
Despite not attaining the high finish expected, the Toyota Corolla S2000 highlighted its pace by matching the times of the world’s leading teams, with Bates even topping the timesheets around the Tweed Super Special Stage on Friday night.
The newly-homologated car – which is now cleared to compete throughout the Asia-Pacific region – received lots of attention from the visiting international media.
It also proved a huge hit with the thousands of vocal fans that lined the stages and voiced their support for the Toyota crew across the three days of the event.
Brisbane-based Scot, Stewart Reid recorded a strong fourth place finish in the national category of the rally in his first drive in a Neal Bates Motorsport Toyota Corolla S2000.
Reid was pleased with his debut outing and by Day 3 was bettering the times of the drivers ahead of him.
Neal Bates, Toyota Corolla S2000 – Car #60:
“It was going well at the start of the day and then halfway through the third stage we lost oil pressure. I found a broken fitting and performed a temporary repair and although we got going, we unfortunately ran out of time to check into the next stage. It was just gut wrenching. We did the next two stages but then had to withdraw at the midday service due to the regulations of the event. Overall I am very happy with how the car performed throughout the rally as the main cause of the problems was me causing a spin on Day 2. After that put us out of contention we turned the rally into a bit of a test and today’s problem stemmed from a development radiator we fitted that had some extra fittings. One of these cracked and caused the problem. The Corolla set strong stage times throughout, including a fastest in the PWRC and it was really just a small mistake from me that stopped us getting the result we hoped for.”
Fans of NBM can keep up with the action from Rally Australia at www.carsguide.com.au or www.youtube.com/nealbatesmotorsport or on Twitter @Toyota_Aus.
Neal Bates Motorsport is running Rally Australia with support from Toyota, Carsguide.com.au, the Melanoma Foundation and MySpace Music.
Toyota Australia has teamed up with MySpace to give MySpace Music users the ultimate playlists from influential tastemakers including Toyota ambassadors, influential music artists and sporting personalities.
More information on MySpace Music will be available when it is launched in Australia in October 2009.
Image courtesy of: Jeremy Rogers