Simon Evans and Ben Searcy have taken a commanding lead in Heat Two of the Quit Forest Rally – the opening round of the Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship® - being held in Nannup, Western Australia today.
With three competitive stages to go Evans/Searcy lead nearest rivals by 36 seconds.
“We’re still learning, every stage I’m learning more and more about the car and just feeling more comfortable,” Evans said. “It’s a new car, I only drove it for the first time this week so I’m pretty happy,” he continued.
Heat One winners Harry Bates/John McCarthy have stuck with Evans/Searcy throughout the day, taking a stage win on SS15 but have so far been unable to make a serious dent in their assault.
“Everything’s comfortable for us and I feel like, as I said we’d do, we’re just going about it the same way we did yesterday,” Bates said. “At the end of the day we’ve tried to take it to Simon as best we can but the pace he’s setting is pretty unreal so we’re just going to try and manage ourselves this afternoon and get through because I think second is still a great result,” he added.
If Evans/Searcy can top the time sheets in Heat Two and Bates/McCarthy finish in second outright the overall event victory will come down to who has the most stage wins - which makes this afternoons stages all the more important for both crews.
“Winning the event is definitely in the back of your mind, you’d be an idiot if you said you weren’t thinking about it but it’s not what you focus on when you’re driving, I just relax, enjoy what I’m doing and focus on driving this thing,” Evans said.
The battle for third outright is currently being fought between the crews of Scott Pedder/Dale Moscatt and Justin Dowel/Toni Feaver with both crews ready to pounce on any opportunity to move up the order.
The opening round of the Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship is running alongside the ARC with local Nannup favourite Tom Wilde and his co-driver Nick Clements looking to make up for lost points in Heat One.
“Yesterday was a really disappointing day for us, first the drive shaft in the morning and then the penalty to top it off so we just had bad luck after bad luck,” Wilde said.
“We just set a clean slate last night and thought we’d just have a bit of a test today. My co-driver is still pretty inexperienced so we’re working with that at the same time as trying to get our stage times up a bit,” Wilde added.
Dylan King and Abbey Hayes are also doing their best to put the disappointment of engine dramas behind them sitting just behind Wilde/Clements in second outright. Doug Tostevin/Tammy Adams are currently third in Heat Two.
Neal Bates and Coral Taylor suffered punctures to both rear tyres on SS12 finishing the stage on rims, however they still hold a commanding lead over the rest of the Classic field.
The crews have now headed out to contest the final three stages of the event which will conclude around 3:30pm WST this afternoon.