The battle at the front of the field in the opening round of the 2017 CAMS Australian Rally Championship, the Eureka Rally will be one of the best in decades, with any of seven drivers a chance to stand on the top step of the podium.
From the events HQ in Ballarat, the crews will use the forests to the north-east of town for 220 km of stages before the finish on Sunday afternoon.
Heading the list of possible winners is defending champion Molly Taylor in a brand new lighter and more powerful factory Subaru WRX STI. Following a successful test session in Tasmania recently, Molly will be looking to maintain her championship winning momentum and come away from Ballarat leading the championship.
Another with the credentials to step to the top of the podium is three times Australian Rally Champion, Eli Evans. Evans will debut his brand new 4WD Mini Cooper at the Eureka Rally.
On paper the crew and vehicle can win but by Evans own admission, he is going to be up against it at this event because of the pressure the compressed build time for the car has placed on a testing program. At this point he is unsure whether he will have a chance to test the car before the first stage and this would have the potential to hamper his podium chances. But if all goes well he can win.
The other hot chance is Canberran, Harry Bates. Bates will campaign the same Corolla S2000 he used last year, when he finished third in the title chase. With a full season under his belt, Harry will be a very serious title aspirant. Bates is sure to be pushing Evans hard, to see if he can find a problem with the new Mini. If he does he will pounce.
A quartet of other hopefuls including Brad Markovic, Nathan Quinn, Tony Sullens and Marcus Walkem have all proven their speed and can stand on the podium. And if any of the leading three strike trouble, there could be a surprise winner on Sunday afternoon.
The event gets underway tonight with a ceremonial start at 5:30pm in the Bridge Mall. Competitors will be available to sign autographs.
Competition gets underway at 8:30 am on Saturday from the Rally Hub in Victoria Park.
If you intend to go out to the forests, spectator instructions are available for download at: