Bates and Taylor triumphant in 2014 International Rally of Queensland

After winning the 2014 International Rally of Queensland, a happy Neal Bates cheekily said “It’s great for a privateer team like us to be on the podium as winners when you’re up against the Datsun factory team. It’s a dream come true”.

A crank angle sensor failed on Special Stage 4 on Saturday morning, dropping four minutes overall. Catching the new leader, Jack Monkhouse in his Team Datsun Australia 180B, would be a huge ask.

Spectators were treated to an amazing display watching the chase that Neal mounted. The stage times the Celica was recording were often in the top three outright, let alone the fastest in the Classic competition. By the end of Saturday, Neal missed winning the day by only ten seconds.

Sunday saw Bates and Taylor out of the blocks quickly, pulling away from the field of each stage, winning the day and the Classic challenge overall.

Queensland also saw the debut of a second Bates Motorsport-built Celica RA40, in the hands of Clay Badenoch. The new car and driver combination got faster as the weekend progressed, ultimately completing the podium in third place to deliver a 100% record for Bates Motorsport-built Celicas.

“I am so impressed,” said Badenoch. “The car is faster than me, but we will learn to go faster.”

The Neal Bates Motorsport team is now preparing the RA40 Celica for the Scouts Rally SA in August.

Bates and Taylor win 2014 Otago Rally

Neal Bates has won the Stadium Cars / Ssangyong International Classic Rally of Otago for the second year in succession.

Held to the south of Dunedin, Bates and co-driver, Coral Taylor, were the class of the field, even beating New Zealand’s WRC star Hayden Paddon, who crashed out of the lead on day one.

Deane Buist drove a Ford Escort RS1800 into second place, one minute and 46 seconds behind Bates, while two-time Otago Rally winner Derek Ayson was third in his Nissan-powered Escort.

Also in the field was 1994 World Rally Champion Didier Auriol. The Frenchman spent much of the rally trying to tune the suspension of his borrowed Ford Escort RS1800 to better suit his driving style. His improved speed on the second day ultimately saw a win on the final stage of the day, showing that he was finally coming to grips with the car and local roads.

After Paddon’s crash on stage six, Bates took a 46 second lead into the second day’s eight special stages and was never challenged for the win.

“We’ve had a brilliant event and the car has run perfectly throughout,” Bates said. ‘We had a lead of over a minute when we nearly put the car on its roof on the first corner of stage 10, so I decided then it was probably time to back off a bit and make sure we got to the finish.”

“We just love this rally. The roads are simply incredible, the people are wonderful and we just love coming back.”

Bates takes out Classics at the 2014 National Capital Rally

Neal Bates enjoyed the roads in his hometown of Canberra, taking out both Heats 1 and 2 of the classic competition at the opening weekend of the 2014 Australian Rally Championship, the National Capital Rally.

In Heat 1, Bates brought his Toyota Celica RA40 home almost three minutes ahead of the Porsche 911 of Jeff David and the Nissan Bluebird of Brett Stephens.

“The interesting part of the day was definitely chasing a family of kangaroos for about a kilometre down the stage this afternoon, I’ve never had that happen before,” laughed Bates.

“It’s been a good day, no problems to report. The weather this afternoon made the roads very tricky and obviously a lot of people had issues today, so I’m happy we kept out of trouble to claim the Classics win.”

In Heat 2, Bates continued his form from the first day, heading home to an easy victory in his RA40 Celica, with Jeff David’s Porsche once again in second and the Datsun Stanza of Trevor Stilling third.

“We didn’t have one problem all weekend,” said Bates. “The roads were incredible today, the best I’ve seen them I think ever!”

Bates 2013 ARC classic category winner

Neal Bates and Coral Taylor have finished the 2013 Australian Rally Championship at the top of the classic category points tally after competing at Rally Victoria.

Heavy rains forced the cancellation of the test day on Wednesday and led to boggy conditions throughout the event.

A collision with a hidden stump in the opening stage on Friday caused an early setback for Bates and Taylor, forcing them to compete with reduced handling capability until repairs could be made to their Toyota Celica RA40′s rear axle.

The pair was still able to win two stages that day, but the setback placed them in fourth position in the first heat.

The second heat on Saturday saw Bates and Taylor return to form, comfortably winning all seven stages and placing them second overall for the event.

Co-driver Coral Taylor said that the slippery conditions made things difficult from the start.

“We actually threw it off the road, which we haven’t done for years, and it happened on the first corner of the first stage,” Taylor said. “I can’t believe it happened but there you go, Neal is human after all!

“It was amazing, even though the car was damaged we still got the fastest time on the stage after that, and we won the second day and wrapped up the championship for the year so we were very happy with that,” she said.

Neal Bates said that while he was happy to win the championship, the most enjoyable part of Rally Victoria and the Australian Rally Championship has been driving his Toyota Celica RA40.

“I stuffed it up on the first corner and it cost us five minutes, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve done something like that,” Bates said.

“We still got two fastest times with the damage in the first heat, then we won all the stages on the Sunday and we won the championship overall.

“But to me it’s more about driving the car and enjoying it, so to have that much fun and come out with the championship is fantastic, and the Celica’s a crowd favourite,” he said.

The final points tally for the 2013 Australian Classic Rally Challenge driver points score for Neal Bates was 330, ahead of second place-getter Clay Badenoch by 122 points.

Coral Taylor’s points totalled 249, making her the number one co-driver despite missing the Queensland round of the series.