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2006 Rally of QLD



Toyota's Simon Evans today won the Coates Rally Queensland after a stirring drive to second place in Heat 2.

After comfortably winning Heat 1 yesterday, Evans was dealt a 30s penalty when his team was forced to change his Corolla's gearbox due to a crack in the casing.

Despite starting the day 30s behind everyone else, Evans only missed out on taking the Heat 2 win by a mere 5.9s to Mitsubishi's Scott Pedder.

"I don't want to have to start a day with a penalty again," said Evans. "That was hard work - very hard work."

"I was trying so hard to not go silly to make up the gap.

"I wanted to win badly, but I kept telling myself that there was a championship at stake - do the job and bring the car home. If I couldn't get first I wanted second today."

"We'll take each rally as it comes and this is a good thing going into Tassie, seeing as that is my least favourite event."

TRD boss Bates was pleased the team had extended its first and second place in the championship.

"All in all, that's not a bad weekend," he said.

"Now we have to keep that up for the rest of the championship - it is fantastic to still be first and second on the ladder.

"If you look at the championship so far, Simon is driving incredibly well - he's been quicker than everyone else out there."

Bates had another fight on his hands with Dean Herridge, beating him to third on the final stage of the day.

"We did the same thing to Dean yesterday - it was all pretty exciting there for a while."

Simon Evans now leads the NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship on 110 points, from Bates on 96 points, Herridge on 84 and Scott Pedder on 73 points.

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Toyota's Neal Bates and Simon Evans are embroiled in an intense four-way battle at the front of the field in Heat 2 of the Coates Rally Queensland.

Mitsubishi's Scott Pedder leads the event by 10.9s over the Subaru of Dean Herridge.

The TRD team mates are breathing down their necks, with Bates trailing Herridge by just 4.4s and Evans only 0.9s behind his team boss.

Recovering from a 30s penalty for an overnight gearbox change, Simon and Sue Evans have clawed back 13.6s on Pedder and are now 16.4s off the lead.

With three stages left to run, the event is set for a thrilling finish.

NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship leader Evans must balance the urge to go all out for the heat win with the need to accumulate as many points as possible.

"We're slowly clawing it back but there is still a long way to go," he said.

"It's a good race today - I'm probably not getting back as much time as I'd like to but I'm doing the best I can.

"I would settle for second place and take out the event - but I want to win too."

Bates again finds himself involved in a flat-out battle with Herridge, but this time Evans and Pedder are also close by.

"It looks like we are going to have another very tight finish," said Bates.

"It seems that there will be some rain around this afternoon, and Scott and Dean have tyres that usually handle the wet a little bit better - we'll have to wait and see."

Three enthralling stages remain in Coates Rally Queensland.

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TRD's Simon Evans began the task of clawing back a 30s time penalty in Heat 2, received after his team changed the Corolla's gearbox at the end of yesterday's Heat 1.

Evans won the first heat of Coates Rally Queensland, despite bottoming out during a morning stage and cracking the gearbox casing.

The Toyota crew patched up the hole, but decided it was best to change the gearbox at the end of the heat - and incur a 30s penalty for today's heat.

At the end of the morning's first three stages, Evans had retrieved 4.3s to trail Mitsubishi's Scott Pedder by 25.7s, with approximately 70 competitive kilometres remaining.

"The car's perfect, I'm in a good frame of mind, I'm very relaxed and I'm not trying to go out there and win it on one stage - there are six stages to go and we've just got to claw it back," said Evans.

""Worst case scenario is to back it off a little bit and consolidate for points, depending on what the others do."

After a tight battle for second place with Subaru's Dean Herridge in Heat 1, Neal Bates resumed the battle with the Western Australian - just 0.5s between the pair in second and third after the day's first three stages, the Subaru just in front.

Overcast conditions, cooler temperatures and the occasional spattering of rain ensured tyre choice was not easy - Bates mainly concerned with choosing the correct one at the day's first service.

"The roads are in between a soft tyre and a medium tyre - we're just trying to make the right choice," said Bates.

"The car's good - no problems at all. It rained in that last stage, but really the roads weren't wet."

There are three more stages before the next service interval, before the final run of three stages.

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Toyota's Simon Evans celebrated his 34th birthday in style today, winning Heat 1 of the Coates Rally Queensland.

It was far from smooth sailing for the birthday boy and wife Sue, as the pair battled gearbox problems all day.

The problems began when the TRD Corolla bottomed out over a grid on the day's third stage.

The impact cracked the gearbox casing, causing an oil leak.

At the first service of the day, the team patched up the leak using some hard-setting putty, covered with a layer of urethane. A cut-up soft drink can was then taped over the hole.

The remedy worked for the next four stages leading into the second service. But on the first stage out of service, SS8, the Corolla went through another grid and the problem re-emerged.

The Evans duo were prepared, however, and proceeded to top up the gearbox in between each stage.

While gearbox oil was often missing, the speed wasn't as Evans set seven fastest stage times over the day.

"The roads are tough out there - it's very hard on the cars," he said.

"Ever since I've competed here it's been my favourite event.

"I've never won it and that's one thing I really want to do in my life - and we're halfway there."

Tomorrow won't be so easy for the Victorian, with today's problems forcing the team to change the gearbox. As a result, Evans will begin Heat 2 with a 30 second penalty.

Neal Bates' day wasn't a smooth one either, with the Canberra driver having problems with new shock absorbers in the morning.

After changing shock absorbers, Bates and Coral Taylor began clawing their way back towards second place.

The combination set fastest stage times on the last two stages before the second service (SS6 and SS7), and by the end of SS8 Bates had overhauled the Subaru of Dean Herridge by 1.0s.

However, Herridge took second place back (by 3.1s) on the next stage, setting the scene for the final stage.

Bates responded by setting the fastest time on the stage, 5.7s ahead of Evans and 9.6s up on Herridge to claim second place.

"I'm incredibly happy with the last stage, but I'm probably pretty lucky to be here too - there were a couple of huge moments in there that I was fortunate to get away with," said Bates.

"My mindset going into the last stage was just to go as fast as I possibly could.

"I tried to keep it neat and tidy going through the second last stage and it obviously wasn't fast enough - so on the last one we threw caution to the wind and it worked."

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Simon Evans has built a 40.2s lead in Coates Rally Queensland after another four stages in the forests surrounding Imbil.

It was another clean sweep of stages for the Toyota team, with Evans fastest over the first two and team mate Neal Bates quickest on stages six and seven.

After the gearbox oil leak of this morning, Team TRD appears to have successfully solved the problem.

The Evans crew moulded some hard-setting putty into the crack, before applying a layer of urethane. They then cut up a soft drink can and taped it over the crack.

Bates also had problems in the morning, with new shock absorbers causing handling problems. At the day's first service, the team changed shock absorbers and the result was immediate - the TRD boss instantly back on the pace and winning the last two stages before the second service.

He is now just 3.1s behind Herridge.

"I'm just taking it stage by stage at the moment," said Evans, who currently leads the NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship.

"The boys did a great job fixing the gearbox leak, and fingers crossed it holds for the rest of the day - the Corolla is just perfect at the moment."

Bates was much happier with his car in the day's middle stages.

"The car was a lot nicer in those stages which made things a bit easier," he said.

"We're a lot closer to Dean now and I'm much happier with the car - we'll see how things go this afternoon."

Just three stages remain in Heat 1 of Coates Rally Queensland.

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Toyota's Simon Evans has built a sizeable lead after the first three stages of Coates Rally Queensland.

Celebrating his 34th birthday today, Evans won all three of the morning's stages to establish a 24.6 second lead over Subaru's Dean Herridge.

However, it was not all smiles for Simon and wife Sue upon arriving at the team's first service of the day - a gearbox leak causing some concern.

"On the third stage we came through a really fast section with a grid which we went straight through and bottomed out quite heavily - the windscreen wipers even turned on," he said.

"The gearbox is leaking a bit of oil now - there is a pretty major crack in the casing. Mechanically the car is fine, we've just cracked the casing and we're leaking oil.

"The boys are now patching it with some liquid metal putty stuff - they're going to patch it and they've told me to look after it."

Neal Bates was in third place at the end of stage three, 31.8s behind Evans and 7.2s behind Herridge.

The TRD team boss was not entirely happy with the morning's running, enduring some suspension problems during the morning.

"I had some new shock absorbers in that we tried in testing and we thought they had some advantages, but out there they had disadvantages," he said.

"The handling was a bit average, but the boys will just change the suspension - we're still up there in third and not far from second."

There is another group of four stages this morning before the second service in Heat 1.

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The Toyota rally team heads into this weekend's Coates Rally Queensland in high spirits, and aiming for its third win from three rallies this season.

After spending yesterday on the rally's roads for recce, both drivers are cautiously optimistic about attacking the roads around Imbil.

"This is a very tough event - it's quite technical and tricky so it's a matter of keeping your nose clean and getting to the end of both days," said TRD team boss Neal Bates.

Team mate Evans agreed.

"The driver that's going to win this rally is going to be the one that is committed to the [pace] notes," he said.

"It's a very daunting rally out there - the trees are close to the stages and there are lots of crests so you can't read the roads.

"You've got to drive smart and commit to your notes."

Bates and Evans both have one win and one second place in the NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship this year - with Evans leading the championship by just five points over Bates.

Both drivers are eager to repeat the successes of the first two rounds of this year's ARC in Canberra and Western Australia.

"Obviously the Corollas are going exceptionally well this year and we've had incredibly good results in the first two rallies," said Bates

Coates Rally Queensland heads to the forests around Imbil tomorrow for two days of action before a ceremonial finish on Mooloolaba Esplanade on Sunday afternoon.

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