Neal Bates and Coral Taylor have again dominated the weekend in the Classics, winning all three heats over the weekend at Scout’s Rally SA in the Toyota Celica RA40.
“It’s been a tough rally, with the very wet weather conditions on Friday and Saturday. On paper it looks like we won by a lot but things weren’t perfect for us. The quality of the Classics this weekend has been excellent, with a couple of Celicas, an Audi Quattro, a Falcon GTHO, a Porsche, a Merc, a Volvo, all sorts of brands, all sorts of types, and we’re all out there having fun,” said Neal.
Next round of the championship is Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour held 11th – 14th September 2014.
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.
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.”
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!”