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2005 Rally of Melbourne

  1. Evans in vintage form for Rally of Melbourne
  2. Evans second after mixed morning for TTR
  3. Evans poised to strike in Rally of Melbourne
  4. Evans wins heat one of Rally of Melbourne
  5. Three Corollas in top six on day two of Rally Melbourne
  6. Evans snares podium finish in Rally of Melbourne

Evans in vintage form for Rally of Melbourne

Hometown hero Simon Evans has made a flying start to the NGK Rally of Melbourne, setting the fastest time in the official "shakedown" session at de Bortoli Winery in the Yarra Valley this morning.

Team mate Neal Bates set equal third fastest time in the session.

After testing in wet and muddy conditions earlier in the week, Evans was happy to see the sun shining this morning.

He said the roads had held up well through the deluge.

“The roads are actually in the best condition I’ve ever seen. Rally of Melbourne has traditionally been a bit rough and a bit treacherous – slippery in some places and a lot of grip in others. This year the surface looks very consistent,” he said.

Evans will run an active centre differential in his Corolla for the first time this weekend and was pleased with its performance in testing.

“The car just feels in general easier to drive. There’s no big advantage, nothing real substantial but the car used to understeer a bit and now it doesn’t,” he said.

Bates is hoping the sun continues to shine in Melbourne for the weekend.

“The Michelins are very strong in the dry so we’re hoping things stay that way this weekend,” he said.

The rally kicks off with a ceremonial start in Federation Square this afternoon, before the first competitive stages in the Yarra Valley tomorrow morning.

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Evans second after mixed morning for TTR

Toyota Team Racing’s Simon Evans lies 2nd after the first three stages of the Rally of Melbourne, just 4sec behind rally leader Cody Crocker.

Team mate Ben Barker is currently 7th, a further 23secs back, while Neal Bates crashed out of heat one after hitting a stump.

Both Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor escaped unhurt from the accident, but their Corolla suffered significant front-end damage.

Evans was content with his position, although he suffered from oversteer on the final stage of the morning.

"The car was a little bit loose on that last stage so I backed off a bit because Ben Cairn isn’t a stage you want to get loose on.

“I’m still not too happy with the feel of the car, so we’re making a couple of adjustments and we’ll see how we go. But overall I’m very happy with where we are right now," he said.

Bates made a slight mistake on stage 2 of the rally and paid dearly.

“I had a bit of understeer going into a corner so I pulled the handbrake on but unfortunately the wheel was in a rut and it pulled the car around into a stump. We hit it pretty hard and there’s a fair bit of damage,” he said.

The team will assess the damage and work towards getting Bates back in the rally tomorrow.

Barker also suffered from oversteer on the morning’s stages and the team made adjustments during service.

“We made a couple of small errors on the first couple of stages but we’re still in it and there’s a long way to go,” he said.

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Evans poised to strike in Rally of Melbourne

Toyota Team Racing’s Simon Evans is well placed to challenge for a heat win on day one of the Rally of Melbourne.

With two stages remaining, Evans is just 4.3secs behind leader Cody Crocker.

Team mate Ben Barker is also in the hunt for major points. He is presently 6th, just 8.7secs behind 5th placed Darren Windus.

Evans, who set fastest time on stage 4 of the day, is confident of a strong showing in the remaining stages.

"We’re getting to my favourite stages so we’ll have a bit of a dip. This morning was pretty tight and twisty and I prefer it when it is fast and following like this afternoon," he said,

The Victorian battled oversteer in the morning changes, but an adjustment to set-up at the first service appears to have done the trick.

“I’m much happier with the car. It’s a lot better balanced,” he said.

Barker was also happier with his performance in the middle stages of the heat.

“The car was a lot better on those stages and we drove a lot harder and were a lot more consistent.

“If we can keep up this pace, fifth isn’t out of reach,” he said.

Meanwhile, Neal Bates remains optimistic about starting tomorrow’s heat despite an altercation with a stump that has badly damaged his Corolla’s front end.

“The boys have got a bit of work ahead of them, but we’re hopeful of getting the job done in time,” he said.

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Evans wins heat one of Rally of Melbourne

Hometown hero Simon Evans staged a classic late run to take out heat one of the Rally of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley today.

Evans timed his run like a Melbourne Cup winner, overturning a 4.3sec deficit in the last two stages to win the rally by 5.9secs.

The popular Victorian went into the last stage of the day needing to beat leader Cody Crocker by 2.4sec. In the end, he set fastest time by 8.3 secs.

Team mate Ben Barker rounded off a good afternoon for TTR by bringing his Corolla home in 6th place, equalling his best heat result in the ARC.

Evans was ecstatic at the result, which moves him into 4th in the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship.

"It seems like it’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure. It’s been fantastic. The boys have done a wonderful job, the Michelins were absolutely superb," he said.

He said he had always planned to attack late in the day.

“We worked to a plan today. The first few stages I didn’t really like so I figured if I could hang back and stay in touch with the leaders then I could have a real crack on the last two stages because they are my favourites in this event. And it actually worked – I’m amazed,” he said.

“It’s been a great day and we just have to repeat the dose tomorrow,” he said.

Team leader Bates, who was an early retirement today after hitting a stump on stage 2, was full of praise for Evans.

“Simon did a fantastic job out there today. He really bounced back well from the disappointment of his retirement in South Australia,” he said.

“Obviously, we’re over the moon. I’m absolutely rapt for Simon. He covered up for my mistake today and brought home the result for the team. People have been pretty hard on him since South Australia, but he’s come out today and turned it all around,” he said.

Barker was happy to take a solid points haul, but left rueing a mistake on the second last stage.

“I would’ve liked to have got 5th but in the end we had a couple of moments out there and they cost us in the end. Still, I’m happy to have brought it home in one piece and we collected some good times out there,” he said.

Toyota’s Executive Director Sales and Marketing, David Buttner, was on hand to congratulate Evans and the team on the victory.

“This is the reason we get involved in motorsport – it’s fantastic to see Neal and his team in such great form as we head into the business end of the season,” he said.

“Due to the tremendous effort of this team over a number of years, Corolla continues to go from strength to strength in the market. August sales saw a 58 per cent increase over the same month last year and puts it on track to deliver in excess of 40,000 for the full year. TTR is certainly fulfilling its role of bringing excitement to the brand,” he said.

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Three Corollas in top six on day two of Rally Melbourne

All three TTR Corollas are in the top six after stage 10 of the Rally of Melbourne.

Simon Evans lies in second place, 5.5secs behind Cody Crocker, while Ben Barker is 5th and Neal Bates 6th.

Evans was satisfied with his morning’s work, except for an overshoot on one corner that caused some minor damage to a front disc.

"I went a bit wide and got up on two wheels and after that I noticed the steering was a little off and there was a bit of knock back through the brake pads. Something’s probably a little bent and the boys are having a look at it now, but it was no drama really," he said.

“I am feeling very happy and very comfortable at the moment and I’m just taking things as they come. Hopefully we can turn it up a bit in the next couple of stages,” he said.

For team mate Bates, yesterday’s dramas spilled into today. His car was down on power in the morning stages with a crack in the exhaust manifold.

The team boss put it down to yesterday’s accident.

“The car took a fair whack yesterday and the boys did a fantastic job to get me back out there this morning. But a crack in the manifold is pretty hard to pick up,” he said.

The problem could not be fixed in morning service, so Bates is resigned to driving around the problem.

Barker was pleased with his performance on the morning stages.

“It all feels good at the moment but obviously there’s a long way to go. The car feels great, though,” he said.

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Evans snares podium finish in Rally of Melbourne

Simon Evans has finished second in a nail-biting finish to the Rally of Melbourne.

Subaru’s Cody Crocker won the rally on a count-back after taking today’s heat by just 4.7sec. Crocker won the rally and this year’s Globalstar Australian Rally Championship (ARC) after securing a bonus point for winning the most stages.

The result sees Evans climb from 5th to equal third in the championship.

Evans’ podium finish capped off a strong weekend for Toyota Team Racing, after Ben Barker secured a best ever ARC result of 4th for the weekend.

Team boss Neal Bates was 6th today and 8th for the weekend after struggling through Heat Two with a cracked exhaust manifold, while privateer Martin Lintott made it four Corollas in the top ten, finishing 9th.

Evans was naturally disappointed after coming so close to victory in his home rally, but was pleased with his performance.

"I feel really good. I gave it my very best and improved my times on the last two stages, but just fell short. The car was fantastic throughout the rally and it’s still in mint condition.

“It’s been an incredible fight. I gave it everything and it was only in the last couple of stages that we were beaten. I pushed the car so hard and it didn’t miss a beat," he said.

Evans said his more measured approach to the weekend had paid dividends.

“I just concentrated on driving corner to corner and keeping it as clean as I could and it worked for me,” he said.

Bates was proud of his team’s effort.

“I’m very happy with the team’s performance over the last two events. We’ve won 50 per cent of the heats and we came so close on both occasions. Simon put in a tremendous effort all weekend and I’m proud of the whole team. The guys performed a minor miracle to get me back on the road today and the car held together right to the finish,” he said.

“Ben also drove an excellent rally. It’s his best ever result and he showed a great deal of maturity this weekend,” he said.

Barker was ecstatic with his result.

“I’m stoked. We just kept it clean and consistent and it paid off,” he said.

Rally of Melbourne – final results

1 Cody Crocker Subaru 37
2 Simon Evans Toyota 36
3 Juha Kangas Subaru 24
=4 Ben Barker Toyota 18
=4 Dean Herridge Subaru 18
6 Darren Windus Subaru 16
7 Scott Pedder Mitsubishi 14
8 Neal Bates Toyota 8

Globalstar ARC championship

1 Cody Crocker Subaru 186
2 Scott Pedder Mitsubishi 116
=3 Simon Evans Toyota 106
=3 Dean Herridge Subaru 106
5 Juha Kangas Subaru 96
6 Neal Bates Toyota 71
9 Ben Barker Toyota 39

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