Over the coming weeks rally.com.au will sit down with some of the leading names in the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship to get some background to their rally careers, where they started and their favourite aspects of the sport.
This week we speak with reigning Australian Rally Champion Eli Evans.
What was your first ARC event and what were you driving?
Eli: My first ARC event was 2002 Rally of Melbourne, and I was driving a black Subaru, that became known as Elvis, because the boys reckoned it had more hits than Elvis (laughs).
That event it hit a massive tree fern on Acheron Way, on a notorious tightening corner, in a car that was probably too quick for my ability, and we did quite a bit of damage out of that one.
What’s your favourite rally car from your career and why?
Eli: It goes without saying the Honda Jazz has to be my favourite (laughs). It’s a purpose built race car, with a sequential gearbox, 250 horsepower, all through the front-wheels. There is nothing more satisfying than getting to the end of a stage and doing an amazing time in a front-wheel drive rally car and really sticking it to the four-wheel drives. The Jazz is definitely the most satisfying and the most fun.
What’s your favourite rally, past or present, and why?
Eli: Would be Rally South Australia, those smooth shire roads and the high speed, I really enjoy the high speed stuff. The smoothness helps because it’s easier on the cars and easier on the brain because you’re not getting rattled around like on rallies like in Queensland, which is so rough and taxing on the cars and the body.
What’s your favourite stage, past or present, and why?
Eli: Always had a favourite stage, that’s an easy question, probably the easiest question. Mawsons Row in South Australia, it’s an absolute gun of a stage, and I was gutted and joked with the team that I didn’t want to do Rally SA when they took it out. I can only hope it’s back next year.
What’s your single biggest achievement?
Eli: Becoming Australian Champion this year is far and away my number one, but also beating Possum Bourne’s win record this year too of eight consecutive wins. He was my hero as a kid. Obviously Simon (Evans) was my favourite driver. But for me it was all about Possum when I was starting out, so to put my name next to his is something incredibly special.
What’s your single biggest regret?
Eli: Would be missing out on winning the Pirelli Star Driver two years in a row. I had the team and the car but I just couldn’t win. I got very close in Malaysia and then Rally Australia I hit a bank on stage 2, as I was coming through the corner and thinking if I’m going to win this I need to hold it flat and I did and hit a bank and nearly ripped the rear wheel off and had to limp through the rest of the day.
It was gut wrenching to know if I’d just trailed a little bit of brake and gone into the corner a little bit slower I may have been racing overseas the very next year.
What’s the most incorrect news story or rumor you’ve ever heard about yourself?
Eli: Not really, most of the journos have been pretty good and pretty kind, I haven’t been stitched up yet, but I stress the word yet (laughs).
Rate your top three biggest rivals and what made them so challenging to compete against?
Eli: Simon Evans, four time Champion, you think you’re beating him but you’re not. He’s just playing with you and he just reels you in and then picks a stage and just crushes your confidence. My biggest fear racing Simon is when you hear he’s got problems because that just makes him drive faster. If you heard he’d hit a bank and nearly ripped a wheel off or hit a kangaroo you just knew he’d come out and go even faster.
Number two rival would be Scott Pedder, this year, just raw speed and has been consistently there, even though the results show we’ve dominated the year it’s been far from the truth and having him in his first year, in a front-wheel drive, and to be pushing myself in my fourth year is something Scott should be proud of. So he goes as number two as a very difficult driver to beat for speed.
And number three has to be Hayden Paddon, my Pirelli Star Driver rival, he won it and he’s gone onto bigger and better things. I’ve got huge respect for Hayden, he’s a really nice guy and he’s put everything on the line to become a rally driver. Knowing that deep down one of us was going to take Pirelli Star and it went to Hayden was bitter sweet.
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