PHOTO: Eli Evans (left) and co-driver Glen Weston celebrate victory with Team Citroen Australia in the Quit Forest Rally (Stuart Bowes pic).
THE 2015 East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship started strongly in Western Australia at the weekend with two significant firsts that bode well for national entries at Rally Australia in September.
At the Quit Forest Rally, Victorian Eli Evans took the first round victory in the championship for the official Citroen team and Renault driver Molly Taylor became the first female to win an ARC heat.
Evans, a two-time Australian champion, and European Ladies Champion Taylor are two of the country’s fastest young drivers and promise to lead a strong national contingent when the FIA World Rally Championship arrives for Rally Australia on 10-13 September.
The Coffs Coast event will host Round 4 of the ECB ARC, but many Australian crews are expected to test themselves by also entering the WRC competition.
Making his debut in the Team Citroen Australia DS3 R3T Evans drove consistently all weekend in WA to win Sunday’s heat two and keep at bay his four-time champion elder brother Simon, who was charging hard on his return to the sport in a Honda Civic Type R.
Eli Evans said it was a relief to win with his new team.
“The longer I drove it this weekend the more and more comfortable I felt, and that resulted in more speed,” he said.
“It’s a very special feeling to win for a new team; it feels just like when I took my first win for Honda. The team have worked incredibly hard in the pre-season, and again this weekend, so it’s a huge relief to be in the fight and take the win.”
Although Evans senior won the two opening Super Special Stages, he was thwarted at times by car problems and finished third overall after two heats.
Returning to regular ARC competition at the wheel of Scott Pedder’s Renault Sport Clio R3, Taylor showed her speed earned after several seasons contesting the World Rally Championship and European Rally Championship.
She won Saturday’s first heat from Eli Evans and Razvan Vlad (Ford Fiesta) and yesterday finished third behind Eli and Simon to claim second overall on points.
“I’ve had a great weekend. My first rally in this car, my first rally with Bill (Hayes, co-driver), just fantastic.”
Veteran navigator Hayes praised Taylor’s speed and maturity.
“Absolutely amazing from the very first stage of the weekend. Molly stays so calm and collected and her speed is just incredible.”
The ECB ARC resumes with Round 2 at the National Capital Rally in Canberra on 15-17 May, when four-time World Rally Champion and four-time Rally Australia winner Juha Kankkunen will be guest of honour after presenting the annual rally Hall of Fame awards.
For all ECB ARC news, visit www.rally.com.au.