Ready to rally . . . Team Hyundai will be in the thick of the action this weekend. Neil Blackbourn Photography
Ready to rally . . . Team Hyundai will be in the thick of the action this weekend. Neil Blackbourn Photography

Rally final will be a big dust-up for local driver

ALL is set for the start of this weekend’s Daikin-Allied Air Conditioning Coffs Coast Rally, the final round of the Australian Rally Championship and New South Wales Championship.

Neal Bates, driving the TRD S2000 Toyota Corolla, will start favourite after setting up a commanding lead on the ARC table and will be crowned champion if he takes both heats.

Teammate Simon Evans, last year’s championship winner, has had a string of bad luck getting used to driving the new S2000 Corolla, whereas Bates’ form has been as good as ever, finding enough genuine speed to take stage and outright wins.

The Toyota team has enlisted the help of veteran motoring journalist Paul Gover to drive a third Toyota Corolla in the event.

Gover is no stranger to Toyota, having driven Corollas and Celicas in many rallies and if he performs well, a top five result is possible.

Former WRC driver Michael Guest will drive the new Pirtek LWR Subaru, and is looking forward to the challenging roads of Coffs Harbour.

It has been eight years since an Australian Rally championship event has been in Coffs Harbour and many crews have not experienced the fantastic roads the region has to offer.

Veterans such as Bates, Evans, Guest and Hoy have driven here before and will be familiar with the roads, giving them an advantage over the newcomers.

Local hotshot Nathan Quinn could be the dark horse of the rally.

He recently won the Myall stages rally, a round of the New South Wales Rally Championship, knows the region well and has a family pedigree to uphold with father, Martin, a former rally ace and now the event manager.

And insiders are recommending nobody should overlook experienced Woolgoolga driver Mark Beard.

British Rally Champion Guy Wild has been entered by Honda Australia in a Honda Civic Type R, a car not seen in Australia since the Rally of Canberra earlier in the year.

Wilks drives a number of different cars overseas and is considered one of the best drivers in Europe.

While he may not be able to challenge for an outright position, Wilks will be fast and exciting to watch and is the precursor for Honda’s full time assault on the 2009 ARC.



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