Rally driving legend Neal Bates.
Rally driving legend Neal Bates. Contributed

Rally legend Neal Bates gets his start in a Daddo

WITHIN motorsport circles, Neal Bates is a legend.

The four-time Australian rally champion was recently awarded the prestigious Peter Brock Medal for his contribution to the sport, and since finishing his professional career now races in the Australian Classic Rally Championship for cars built before 1983 in his immaculately engineered Toyota Celica RA40.

We caught up with the talented steerer to talk about his motoring life.

What was your first car?

It was a Datsun 1500 ute. I just wanted to have a ute at the time and it was cheap. It was a good car and I really didn't have any dramas with it. It had an L-Series engine and a five-speed gearbox, as well as disc brakes. I'd always loved cars, and after that I had a Datsun 1600 rally car. Then a Toyota RA22 rally car.

What are you driving now?

A LandCruiser, 200 Series. My wife drives a Lexus IS250. Because I have done some much motor racing over the years people ask about cars, and I don't have a want for a race car as a road car.

A LandCruiser for me is just the best…you can tow anything with it, you can take the kids and their mates, go four-wheel driving, they are just so versatile and I think they are an amazing vehicle.

What cars did you family have while you were growing up?

My old man was a maniac, Cadillacs, Chevelles, Alfa Romeo Montreal, LandCruisers … there was just about new cars every week.

One car which stood out was a Pontiac Catalina at one stage, it wasn't a favourite, but it was just huge.

What is your greatest frustration on the road?

There are a couple of things. Number one is people going under the speed limit in the right hand lane.

And what always amazes me when traffic lights go green, everyone seems to wake up and then put it in gear, it just seems to take people forever to move off the line. It's like they just aren't concentrating.

Driving is not difficult, and the biggest thing you find is people not concentrating. If people take driving for granted, they just go through the motions.

If you had to pick someone to go on a road trip with, who would it be?

A road trip with Elle McPherson probably wouldn't be too bad. But Coral (Taylor, co-driver) and I have done an amazing amount of driving over the years and I enjoy road trips with Coral because we get on well and chat. We have done 40-plus trips across the Nullarbor.

What is your dream car?

I have always had a fascination with Le Mans cars, and I've always thought something like a Toyota TS010 would be amazing to have.

Neal Bates is a Toyota ambassador.


Who: Neal Bates.

Born: March 19, 1965.

Resume: A living legend of motorsport, he is a three-time Australian rally champion, in 1993, '94, '95 and 2008. In 2012 Bates also won the Australian Classic Rally Championship. He became only the third driver to be awarded the prestigious Peter Brock Medal recently.