Toyota’s four-time national rally champions Neal Bates and Coral Taylor have been inducted into the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame during a gala dinner in Melbourne.
Launched in 2016, the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame recognises achievement across motor racing, motorcycling, rallying, off-road, drag racing, karting and speedway.
Bates is one of only five rally drivers inducted since the Hall of Fame was created, while Taylor is the first woman and first co-driver to be included in the current list of 51 inductees.
Bates and Taylor have represented Toyota in Australia for 25 years, winning the Australian Rally Championship in 1993, 94, 95 and 2008, as well as Targa Tasmania in 1995 and the 2012 Australian Classic Rally Championship.
They also competed in World Rally Championship events for Toyota Team Europe.
Chairman of the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame Garry Connelly said it is fitting that multiple championship winners like Neal and Coral, who have also done much to increase the profile of rallying in Australia, should be inducted.
“Their places – with Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray, Ross Dunkerton, Colin Bond and Possum Bourne – as icons of rallying in this country are well deserved,” he said.
Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said Bates and Taylor have been the company’s flag bearers in motor sport for a quarter of a century, and continue to contribute as both ambassadors and on the technical side.
“Neal Bates Motorsport developed the performance kit used in our Toyota 86 Racing Series, while Neal’s son Harry last weekend recorded his first national rally championship victory in Victoria,” Mr Cramb said.
“They must surely be one of the most enduring rally driver/co-driver pairings anywhere in the world.”
Bates said it was an honour to be recognised.
“I am proud of what we’ve achieved as a team,” he said. “The focus is often on the driver, but it is a team effort – from Coral’s vital role with the pace notes to the service crew.
“I have been fortunate to have Toyota’s backing and some very good people around me for many years.”
Coral Taylor said it was a special honour to be the first woman inducted.
“I was totally surprised to get the notification letter,” she said. “I’ve had the privilege of sitting beside the driver I consider to be the best in Australia for the last 25 years.
“Toyota has been part of our lives through it all and still is, with classic rallies and ambassadorial functions like this week’s launch for the new season of the Toyota 86 Racing Series.
“The amazing part for me is that I didn’t set out to do it. I did one rally with my father (Norm Fritter) in 1979. That grew into a serious hobby and then a career,” she said.