FOUR-time Australian Rally Champion Neal Bates will be breathing down Ben Barker's neck next month.
Bates will contest the Bega Valley Rally and intends on giving his former employee a run for his money.
"Ben is an incredibly good driver," Bates said. "he drove for me in the Toyota team in the early 2000s and obviously i know him very well as a driver.
"I might be getting older but I'm still competitive - and hopefully we can make him work for it," he beamed.
Barker will be in contention for his third straight Bega Valley crown and Bates said the local hopeful would undeniably be the man to beat.
Driving in a 1980 Toyota Celica, Bates said his car would be in "a very similar" class to Barker's for the 14-stage rally.
Barker's BMW has an M3 engine, which he says throws out about 280 horsepower, but drivers are notoriously secretive about their motors.
When pressed on whether his car also had a highly tuned engine with a "bit more than 280 horsepower" Bates laughed and said "that's correct".
"I know very well what Ben is capable of and it will be a very difficult task for me, but I'm sure we'll have a fantastic time."
"If we can beat Ben, all the better, but if we don't it's okay, I rally to enjoy it."
It's been a bit over 20 years since Bates last contested the Bega Valley Rally when he ran in 1997, but he said the Shire roads hold a special place among drivers as some of the best in Australia.
"Bega has some of the best rally roads in the country," he said.
He was saddened when the rally was called off after 2008, but said it was brilliant to see the returning hype around the iconic event.
"there is a lot of work in organising rallies and it's great to see an incredibly enthusiastic group of people bringing it back."
"Those Shire Roads are incredibly special," Bates added. "And the forestry roads around Eden are some of the best kept in the country, so the whole thing is pretty exciting."
The opening stage on Upper Cobargo Road will have a quirky twist for the Australian Motorsport Hall of Famer.
Married to Bega's Jane Otton, Bates said he is incredibly familiar with the road and it would be a bit of fun to scream past the in-laws' family farm.
"The in-laws have about 1500 acres on Upper Cobargo Road," he said.
"I started dating Jane back in 1987 and I got to know those roads quite well driving around with her then, so it's exciting to compete there.
"In fact my Mum is from Bega too, so I have extensive history in the area."