The 2018 CAMS Australian Rally Championship landed in Coffs Harbour set for a mouthwatering finale – four title contenders ready to battle it out at Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
Eli Evans and Ben Searcy were in the box seat for the 2018 title, 57 points clear of Harry Bates and John McCarthy. Sitting third outright was Steve Glenney and Andy Sarandis, while the fourth-placed pairing of Molly Taylor and Malcolm Read were in with a mathematical chance.
With the three day event also hosting the World Rally Championship’s season finale, all four teams were in shot thanks to the 101 points on offer.
In what seemed to be one of the more difficult rallies to date, Taylor and Read were first to see their challenge end early with the pair involved in a heavy crash in second stage of the day. Thankfully both walked away from the incident but would take no further part in the event.
Another one bit the dust later in the day, when Evans and Searcy landed hard after a jump, damaging the radiator of their Skoda Fabia R5. Stranded on stage for much of the day, they would return for repairs and rejoin the event for day two.
Bates on the other hand was flying, the pair racing to a 1:28 second lead ahead of Glenney and at the end of day one. The title was truly up for grabs.
Day two saw Bates and Evans in a tight tussle, the pair trading stage times with Bates holding onto the overall lead.
But something had to give and unfortunately for the Neal Bates Motorsport, it was Harry who suffered heartbreak, his ever-reliable Toyota Yaris AP4 stopping on stage with mechanical failure.
Further investigation from the crew would find the engine issue was terminal, thus forcing Bates out of both the race and the title fight.
Only two remained title contenders remained in the fight as Glenney, also in a Skoda Fabia R5, lead the event by more than seven minutes at the end of day two and streaked away on day three.
A faultless performance from the Contel Communications crew claimed a brilliant Rally Australia win, their first for the year, by almost 18 minutes.
However, despite their strong efforts, Evans and Searcy could not be denied the title, the pair climbing back to fifth outright for the event and banking enough points to win the 2018 CAMS Australian Rally Championship.
2018 CAMS Australian Rally Champions Eli Evans / Ben Searcy 🏆
— racetorque (@racetorque) November 18, 2018
Evans and Searcy celebrated the win with donuts at the final corner of the Wedding Bells ‘Power Stage’ in front of thousands of fans and a world-wide television audience, deserving winners of Australia’s premier rally title.
Not a bad way for Evans to celebrate a fourth title.