Crunch time in Can­berra

Neal Bates is fac­ing the bat­tle of his ca­reer, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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