Bates Wins Heat One At Rally Queensland! Toyota Team Australia's Neal Bates has registered his first Australian Rally Championship heat win of 1999 on the Sunshine Coast in wet conditions to take maximum heat points. Bates (Toyota Corolla) held ...
Bates Wins Heat One At Rally Queensland!
Toyota Team Australia's Neal Bates has registered his first Australian Rally Championship heat win of 1999 on the Sunshine Coast in wet conditions to take maximum heat points.
Bates (Toyota Corolla) held off a late challenge from Possum Bourne (Subaru Impreza) to finish just seven seconds ahead of the field at the end of the first day of the Falken Tyres Rally Queensland.
"In the past we have had the speed but we've also had niggly little problems. Today everything was fine and we were able to maintain the lead" stated Bates.
The Toyota driver had opened a nine second gap on stage three, forcing Bourne into a rushed suspension change mid-morning. The pair then traded stage times over the remaining six stages as weather conditions in the hinterland worsened.
The Subaru Australia pair of Bourne and Crocker suffered from tyre and suspension problems throughout the day, both changing their setups in order to overcome the adverse conditions.
"Things could have been better, and it would have been a harder fight throughout the day. We just need to try and do a better job, it's as simple as that" said Bourne.
Heavy rain forced course officials to shorten a crucial leg of the event, the challenging 28km New Traverse stage, to just 9km. The move prompted fears of a repeat of the rain-shortened first ARC round of the year at Coffs Harbour where officials were forced to cancel an entire day of the rally.
But late today officials confirmed the only change to Heat two would be a simialr reduction in the same stage tomorrow.
Formula 2 driver Simon Evans (Volkswagen Golf 'Kit Car') led his class home ahead of Brett Middleton (Honda Civic VTi-R). "We had some really good competition out there today, both from Brett (Middleton) and Rick (Bates) took time off us today," said Evans. "We were taking it reasonably carefully, I just needed to be consistent."
Defending Group N champion Cody Crocker (Subaru Impreza) survived a mid-morning spin to register a heat win ahead of John Goasdoue (Mitsubishi Lancer), who limped home with engine trouble.
"We had a dream run today, you just can't hope for any better," stated Crocker. "We had a couple of moments early on in the rally but everything went well."
Teams face a further seven special stages in Heat 2 tomorrow with all eyes on the skies - further rain is forecast.
The first stage of the day gets underway at 0757.