Crunch time in Canberra
Neal Bates is facing the battle of his career, writes PAUL GOVER
SUNDAY afternoon could be the end of the road for three-time Australian rally champions Neal Bates and Coral Taylor.
The money has run out and their home event in Canberra could be their last.
Toyota has withdrawn its support and the one-time factory team leaders have been reduced to running as privateers in the Rally of Canberra, second leg of the Australian title series.
Bates knows he faces tough decisions but, for a rally he has won five times, he is concentrating on winning.
‘‘I try not to think about things. It could be the end, but I hope not,’’ he says.
‘‘At this stage I have no plan to go to Perth for the third round of the championship, unless something changes.’’
Bates and Taylor began their title defence with victory in Rally Tasmania in their S2000 Corolla but know things will be even tougher in Canberra. Former teammates, Simon and Sue Evans, have switched to a Mitsubishi Lancer in a family team alongside speedy young Eli Evans in a Subaru WRX.
‘‘Simon was very quick in Canberra last year in my Corolla so I’m expecting the same again. I’ll have to be right on my game to go with him,’’ Bates says.
‘‘No matter what, he will be on a mission. But we’ll see what happens, because conditions can be tricky in Canberra.’’
Despite his many local suc- cesses, Bates admits to battling on the slippery roads through the forests around the national capital.
‘‘I don’t know why, but I actually find it difficult here,’’ he says. ‘‘So we have to work at it and come up with a result.
‘‘It will be rally where you need to get to the finish for a result.’’
Simon Evans leads the field for the Rally of Canberra, followed by Eli and Bates in third. Action starts tomorrow morning and finishes on Sunday.
Bumpy road ahead: the Neal Bates-Coral Taylor Corolla will run as a privateer in Canberra.