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Targa Tasmania



Team TRD rally driver Neal Bates has scored an historic class victory in the 2008 Targa Tasmania tarmac rally, claiming the first major win for the TRD Aurion.

Three-time Australian rally champion Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor won a see-sawing battle over the V8-powered Monaro of Paul Freestone to claim victory in their class of the Modern Competition category.

The 1995 Targa-winning duo was victorious by just three seconds, winning an enduring event-long battle with Freestone on the final two stages of the event.

Bates was pleased to secure his fourth class victory in Targa and to give the supercharged, 3.5-litre V6-powered TRD Aurion a win against stiff competition.

He and Taylor finished 21st outright and secured their second victory in as many weeks following their win in the opening round of the 2008 Australian Rally Championship in Western Australia.

Team-mate Simon Evans was joined by Today show sports reporter Cameron Williams who acted as co-driver for the reigning Australian rally champion.

The duo held the lead in their class until an engine failure caused their retirement just four stages from the end of the rally.

Up until that point, Evans' showroom-spec TRD Aurion had been leading its class and was running third in the Showroom 2WD category.

Neal Bates, Car #960 - TRD Aurion, Modern Competition:
"I am absolutely over the moon to score class victory for the TRD Aurion in its very first event. We had a really tough battle with Paul Freestone during the last couple of days and it is very satisfying to come out on top. Targa is such a special event. Tasmanians' really get behind it and the turnout in Hobart for today's last stage was amazing. Targa has allowed the TRD Aurion to show its performance credentials and I am sure this class win will be the first of many victories for the car."

Simon Evans, Car #929 - TRD Aurion, Showroom 2WD:
"Everything was going really well until we unfortunately had a problem with the engine on the Mount Arrowsmith stage. Although we had a problem with the engine, the engineers at TRD will review it and I am sure they will be able to take a lot from it and use the information to help future development. For a showroom-standard car the TRD Aurion performed exceptionally well throughout Targa and surprised many people with its pace. Cameron had a great day even if it was cut a bit short. Like all the guest co-drivers I have had this week he has been great fun and really embraced the role. Targa is a unique event and it was great to see the Tasmanian people turn out in such strong numbers."

Cameron Williams, Today show sports reporter Channel Nine (Simon Evans' celebrity co-driver), Car#929:
"Today was such a fantastic experience. Although the result was not what we wanted, I got the chance to experience rallying at its best with the best so I certainly have a renewed appreciate for Simon's ability. I am astounded by the speed Simon got from a standard road car - the TRD Aurion was such a great car. Motorsport has its highs and lows and today I experience both."

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TRD has maintained its class leads on the toughest day of this year's Targa Tasmania tarmac rally, with both Neal Bates and Simon Evans successfully completing a gruelling series of stages that moved teams from Launceston to Strahan on the west coast.

Toyota drivers Bates and Evans tested the pace and handling of their supercharged TRD Aurions over seven stages including the 37.4 kilometre-long Cethana stage on the penultimate day of the tarmac classic.

Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor maintained the lead in their class of the Modern Competition category despite stopping during a stage to check on an accident involving a fellow competitor.

Their lead over the Monaro of Paul Freestone has been cut to five seconds, but the 1995 Targa-winning duo believe they have the pace to hold on during tomorrow's final run into Hobart.

Evans spent the day alongside Channel Nine's Mornings with Kerri-Anne host, Kerri-Anne Kennerley who attracted a lot of attention with her diamante-studded race suit.

The duo maintained car #929's class lead and Kennerley thoroughly enjoyed a day of long, challenging and often hair-raising stages.

For the final day of Targa Tasmania, Evans will be joined by Today show sports reporter Cameron Williams for the six stages that include the event's longest stage, the legendary 47.2 kilometre-long Mount Arrowsmith.

Neal Bates, Car #960 - TRD Aurion, Modern Competition:
"Today was probably the toughest day of the event as the stages were very demanding. We still lead our class but our lead has been cut, however, both Coral and I are confident we can hold on until the finish in Hobart. We had to stop for an accident but we got the time back and the guys were ok so it wasn't a problem. I can't wait to drive the TRD Aurion on Mount Arrowsmith tomorrow as the car has been handling well all week and the stage is a real car tester."

Simon Evans, Car #929 - TRD Aurion, Showroom 2WD:
"It was a real pleasure to have Kerri-Anne in the car today - we had a great time. She really got into her role as co-driver and performed brilliantly. The stages we covered really allowed her to see the TRD Aurion and the event at its best so she had the best-possible experience. I think (regular co-driver and wife) Sue is a little jealous of the bling on Kerri-Anne's suit so we might have to get her some before next month's rally in Canberra."

Kerri-Anne Kennerley, host Channel Nine's Mornings with Kerri-Anne (Simon Evans' celebrity co-driver), Car#929:
"What can I say? I had a magnificent time with Simon today and today proved just how good a driver he really is. A couple of times I couldn't see over the crest in front of me which was a little hairy but I quickly learnt to trust his judgement and I felt very safe. The TRD Aurion is such a beautiful car and I can't believe the day went so quickly - it will be a shame to get out of the car and out of my beautiful race suit."

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Toyota rally drivers Neal Bates and Simon Evans have maintained their respective class leads following another day of challenging stages during Leg 3 of Targa Tasmania, further highlighting the consistency of their TRD Aurions.

Bates, competing in the Modern Competition category, has maintained his class lead over the V8-powered Monaro of Paul Freestone despite the Holden driver closing the gap slightly to sit 11 seconds behind the 1995 Targa winner.

TRD team boss Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor are looking forward to Saturday's group of stages that will move the crews from Launceston in the north to Strahan on the west coast.

TRD team-mate Simon Evans enjoyed another day in his class lead of the Showroom 2WD category and was joined by guest co-driver Phillip James.

James won the right to sit next to the current Australian rally champion through a radio competition on The Jono Coleman Experience radio show, hosted by Evans' Thursday celebrity co-driver, Jono Coleman.

Evans and James maintained car #929's class lead with the competition winner making way tomorrow for Channel Nine TV personality Kerri-Anne Kennerley who will take over the role of co-driver.

After four days of action in and around Launceston, Targa Tasmania moves into its penultimate day of competition on the roads to Strahan ahead of the event's final day that takes teams to Hobart on Sunday.

Neal Bates, Car #960 - TRD Aurion: Modern Competition:
"We lost a little of the lead to Paul Freestone today but we still have a comfortable lead so Coral and I are happy. The TRD Aurion again performed well but the important thing is that we have had minimal tyre wear so we are well placed to attack the weekend's stages. We are really pleased with our overall position and are especially looking forward to the run down to Hobart on Sunday that will allow the car to stretch its legs."

Simon Evans, Car #929 - TRD Aurion: Showroom 2WD:
"The TRD Aurion is such a smooth car to drive and Phillip performed really well. He is a motorsport enthusiast and really got into the role of co-driver so we had a great day. I am continually surprised with how a showroom standard car can handle and corner at high-speed. Tomorrow I am with Kerri-Anne Kennerley and I am really looking forward to it. I reckon she will really enjoy herself and will be nice to have a female co-driver again."

Phillip James, competition winner (Simon Evans' co-driver), Car #929:
"What a day. It was such an amazing experience to co-drive for Simon and to be in a factory team with my name on the window is something I will never forget. I had heard from Jono Coleman how good a driver Simon was and today really proved that. The TRD Aurion always visually impressed me, but after today, the car's smooth acceleration and overall performance have given me a new appreciation for it. I am certainly a fan."

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Toyota's triple Australian rally champion Neal Bates has put his tyre wear concerns behind him to move his TRD Aurion into the class lead on the third day of the Targa Tasmania tarmac rally.

Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor put their tyre conservation plan on hold for a day, pushing hard to take the lead in their class of the Modern Competition category, turning a five second deficit into a 15 second lead over Paul Freestone's V8-powered Monaro.

The 1995 Targa-winning duo enjoyed Leg 2's eight open, flowing stages that allowed Bates to show the potential of the TRD Aurion's 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine.

Current Australian rally champion Simon Evans was joined by the second of his celebrity co-drivers for Leg 2, teaming up with radio and TV funny man Jono Coleman for a day of incredible laughs and respectable stage times.

Coleman thoroughly enjoyed his day in the co-driver seat and although he provided Evans with a lot of laughs, the host of The Jono Coleman Experience radio show was full of praise for both his driver and the TRD Aurion.

Evans remains in the lead of his class of the Modern Showroom category and will be joined by competition winner Phillip James for Friday's stages, the last day of competition based out of Launceston.

Leg 3 of Targa Tasmania sees crews move west of the event's current Launceston home for eight competitive stages in and around the northern coastal city of Devonport.

Neal Bates, car #960 - TRD Aurion, Modern Competition:
"Today we showed some real speed and to move into the class lead with a 15 second gap to second is a great achievement. The TRD Aurion again performed strongly and was able to stretch its legs and show its true speed on today's open and fast stages. We measured the tyre wear last night and it was better than we had anticipated so we put the foot down and came out with a great result. The lack of tyre wear is also a testament to how well the car is balanced as we have been able to run the same two tyres on the front for all three days."

Simon Evans, car #929 - TRD Aurion, Showroom 2WD:
"What a laugh that was. Jono is a very funny bloke and it was perhaps the most entertaining day I have ever had rallying - I think I laughed pretty much the whole way. He didn't grasp the whole co-driving thing very well but he more than made up for it by keeping me entertained. But in all seriousness, the TRD Aurion again performed well. It handles brilliantly at high-speed and other competitors are still surprised that it is a standard production car."

Jono Coleman, host Jono Coleman Experience radio show (Simon Evans' celebrity co-driver), car#929:
"Simon is a one-in-a-million guy. He took my orders and threw them out the window so I think that helped. Targa is a fantastic event. Even though we are competing in a car that features the latest technology, there is something very old world about the whole thing. Seeing people of all ages line the road and embracing an event with such passion is great to see. The TRD Aurion is an amazing car. It was a very smooth ride even at high speed on the twisty roads and I felt safe and secure and that was down to both the driver and the car. The one thing that will stick with me is just how safe Simon can drive when driving so fast. It was a very pleasurable experience and such an adrenalin rush."

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Toyota Racing Development (TRD) duo Neal Bates and Simon Evans have maintained their respective class positions following the completion of Leg 1 of Targa Tasmania as the supercharged TRD Aurion continued to perform solidly in its debut event.

Former Targa winner Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor enjoyed the opportunity to test their specially-prepared TRD Aurion on the second day's nine stages, where the longer competitive sections allowed the car to show its potential.

The 1995 outright Targa winners moved up the overall order and maintained their second position in class where they sit just five seconds behind leader Paul Freestone.

As all Targa cars must complete the six days of running on one set of tyres, six-time Bathurst 12-hour winner and experienced endurance campaigner Bates admits he and Taylor will be conserving their tyres on the opening few days.

Current Australian rally champion Evans, who delivered the TRD Aurion a class win on its world competition debut during yesterday's Prologue stage, was joined by RPM host Greg Rust, the first of his celebrity co-drivers for Tasmania's tarmac classic.

'Rusty' performed well-above expectation and using rally-style pace notes prepared with assistance from Evans' regular co-driver and wife, Sue, helped Simon to first in class and third in category.

Evans was full of praise for Rust and their standard TRD Aurion which outshone many of the teams contesting for outright victory in the Modern Competition category.

Evans will be joined by radio personality Jono Coleman for Thursday's Leg Two that will see crews contest eight stages to the east of Launceston.

Neal Bates, Car #960 - TRD Aurion, Modern Competition:
"We had a very good day again with no problems at all. The TRD Aurion handles incredibly well and is superbly balanced. We were quite conservative because we were conscious of tyre wear and just wanted to see how they went. We'll work out tonight how much they have worn and see how we attack tomorrow. It was quite warm today but the car performed well and we pushed a little on the last two stages and it felt really good. This event is a bit of a waiting game in the first few days and I could be over paranoid about the tyres, but we will see how we go over the next few days and that will allow us to push at the end."

Simon Evans, Car #929 - TRD Aurion, Showroom 2WD:
"We had a ball. It was really good fun and by the last stage it really clicked with Rusty and he was calling the notes well. Rusty's job as co-driver is to tell me what I can't see. By the end the day directions were coming out smoothly and that allowed me to see the road ahead like a picture in my head. I wanted to show Rusty how much fun this event is and how great the TRD Aurion is. It is a standard road car, we have basically put a roll cage in it and we have been genuinely competitive in a really tough event. It was alien to hear a male voice calling notes and Rusty was a little nervous but I settled him down and off we went. I am just glad we could give him the experience."

Greg Rust, Network 10's RPM (Simon Evans' celebrity co-driver), Car #929:
"I really got a feeling today of what a co-driver actually does and discovered a new appreciation for it. In my job I spend time around co-drivers and know what they do, but having spent a day as one I now know what it takes to be one of the best like (Simon's wife and regular co-driver) Sue or Coral Taylor. Although I have known Simon for many years, I knew he would be hesitant but at times we had genuine pace and for me that was really enjoyable as you could see what the car could do. On the surface you could think, it is a big car, it's competing in the showroom class so it will be slow but it was anything but. The celebrity co-driver concept is really good for rally and will open up awareness of the sport to a new group of people."

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Toyota's two-time Australian rally champion Simon Evans has secured the TRD Aurion's maiden victory in the car's world competition debut, taking class victory in the George Town Prologue on the opening day of the Targa Tasmania tarmac rally.

Evans and his co-driver wife Sue won their class in the Showroom 2WD category of the tarmac classic, driving a clean lap of the 4.8 kilometre-long stage run in and around the northern Tasmanian seaside town.

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) team-mates Neal Bates and Coral Taylor also enjoyed a solid start to their Targa campaign, finishing second in their class of the Modern Competition category.

The George Town Prologue determines the starting order for Leg 1 of the event on Wednesday and former Targa winner Bates was pleased with the TRD Aurion's competitive debut and to be less-than three seconds from class leader Paul Freestone.

The 1995 Targa winner has enjoyed many successes on tarmac and although his race-spec TRD Aurion handled George Town's tight, twisty roads well, Bates feels the car will be more at home on the fast flowing roads the event will cover in the coming days.

Evans, driving a standard TRD Aurion was overjoyed to secure the supercharged car's first win in its very first competitive outing and cannot wait to test the car on the fast, flowing roads the event will cover over the next five days.

Although the reigning Australian rally champion was joined for the Prologue by his regular co-driver and wife, Sue, from Wednesday he will pair up with a number of celebrity co-drivers for the remainder of the event.

Wednesday's Leg 1 will see Greg Rust, host of Network 10's RPM motorsport program fill the co-driver seat for the day's nine stages that run between Launceston and Devonport.

Neal Bates, Car #960 - TRD Aurion, Modern Competition:
"We did a lot better than I expected on the Prologue stage. I am really happy with how the car performed, it was clean and neat. I expect the car to perform a lot better once the roads open up in the coming days and the TRD Aurion can stretch its legs. We can't read too much into such a short section of road but we are well-placed heading into tomorrow's first real hit out."

Simon Evans, Car #929 - TRD Aurion, Showroom 2WD:
"To win our class on the TRD Aurion's very first outing is a great achievement. I kept repeating the tarmac racing principles in my head - brake early and keep it clean, and it clearly paid off. For what is basically a standard road-going TRD Aurion it performed well. The car has a really good chassis, it turns well and the brakes are great. It has a lot more potential for the open roads and Sue and I have worked a lot with Greg (Rust) developing pace notes so we should have respectable pace."

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