The stage is set for The Courier Eureka Rally with 49 entries confirmed to compete in the two-day event on 3-4 March.
Former Australian Rally Champions Eli Evans and Molly Taylor are set to head the field, along with last year’s Eureka Rally winner Harry Bates, who will be hoping to challenge in the new Toyota Yaris AP4 following a troubled debut for the car in late 2017.
Evans and Taylor will both welcome new co-drivers at the first round of the 2018 CAMS Australian Rally Championship (ARC).
Evans will team up with Ben Searcy in the Mini Cooper AP4 following the retirement of Glen Weston last year after a nine-year partnership. Searcy brings experience to the team having co-driven for the likes of Brendan Reeves, Nathan Quinn and Simon Evans in the past.
Taylor, in the Subaru do Motorsport Impreza WRX Sti is yet to announce her new co-driver to replace the retiring Bill Hayes.
There are some new faces on the scene, with Victorian Glen Raymond stepping up to the ARC in his newly purchased Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. Raymond won the Victorian Rally Championship in 2012 as a navigator but made the switch to the divers seat in recent years. Kate Catford will be beside him as co-driver.
Adrian Coppin returns to the ARC following a one-year sabbatical in the new Peugeot 208 AP4 with Erin Kelly as co-driver. The pair completed a full day test in Canberra this week to blow out the cobwebs.
The West Australian contingent of John O’Dowd and Brad Markovic will be back for another tilt at the ARC in their Subaru Imprezas. Both from Dean Herridge’s Maximum Motorsport stable, O’Dowd had an impressive 2017 claiming the ARC2 title and third outright in driver’s championship while Markovic achieved his first ever ARC podium at Forest Rally WA.
Other ARC regulars to watch include Craig Brooks, who will be keen to build on a strong 2017, and Adam Kaplan, last year’s two-wheel-drive champion.
Young gun Lewis Bates, younger brother of Harry, will be looking to make an impression in the Toyota Corolla S2000, stepping up to the four-wheel-drive car permanently after having his first outing in it at Rally Australia last year.
He will no doubt be challenged by another young gun, Queenslander Wayne Morton, also in an S2000. Morton dipped a toe in the water of national competition last year, competing in both the national and international field at Rally Australia. The experience is sure to aid his preparation as he enters the ARC.
Teams will conduct testing and shakedown on Thursday 1 March just outside of Ballarat before the event begins on Saturday 3 March.