Evans and Searcy in control

Tankformers’ Eli Evans and Ben Searcy hold a 46-second lead after leg one of the Netier National Capital in Canberra today.

Evans won six of today’s nine stages but didn’t have it all his own way, with Toyota Genuine Parts Harry Bates and John McCarthy pushing hard and getting the better of Evans on three stages.

Bates looked to be pulling time back on Evans this afternoon until he blew a turbo on special stage eight, Hibernian II, dropping three minutes on the stage and forcing the Toyota to limp through special stage nine Wamboin River II to complete the days’ competition.

Bates’ mechanical dramas opened the door for Contel Communications Steve Glenney and Andy Sarandis to move into second position, following a super-consistent drive by the Tasmanian paying off.

Yes! Optus’ Adrian Coppin and Glen Weston also put in a strong performance to sit third at days end, but with work to do to progress further, more than three minutes off the lead.

Driving the Race Torque Engineering Skoda R5 for the second event in a row, Evans was satisfied with today’s result.

“We’re having fun,” Evans said.

“Today was really challenging, it was extremely rough, especially the second pass. On the last stage we knew Harry had had some issues so we tried to stay out of trouble but we seemed to create more, I think I hit every rock on the last stage.

“We managed to get through without any major dramas and finish on top for the day so mission accomplished.”

Coppin considers himself a Canberra local, having resided in Canberra until recently relocating to Brisbane, and he used his local knowledge to put himself in a good position at the halfway point of the event.

“I think I drove a smart rally today, I know how bad Kowen can be and how rough it can be,” said Coppin.

“I would have like to have had a bit more pace but we’re here and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, I really love those stages.”

Asia Pacific Rally Championship competitors Yuya Sumiyama and Takahiro Yasui, in the Cusco Racing Skoda Fabia R5, and Mike Young and Scott Beckwith in the Toyota Vitz, round out the top five.

Bates dropped to sixth as a result of the Yaris AP4s turbo issues, the Neal Bates Motorsport team working to have the car ready to do battle in leg two tomorrow.

The rough roads caused havoc for many competitors – Subaru do Motorsport’s Molly Taylor and Malcolm Read having a torrid day with bent rims before collecting a gate post late in the day, causing extensive damage to the right rear of the Subaru WRX STi.

“We had a couple of broken rims today and had an incident catching another car – we hit a gate post on a tight corner and damaged the rear cross-member,” explained Taylor.

“So its been a day to forget for us but Canberra is always really rough and tough on the crews and cars. The main thing is we got her back and she’ll be right as rain tomorrow morning.”

Taylor sits in seventh position.

Retirements include Neal Bates Motorsport’s Lewis Bates and Coral Taylor, who suffered engine damage when they broke an oil line on the Toyora Corolla S2000 after a jump and Wayne Morton and Kirra Penny, who damaged the front of the two-door Subaru WRX STi in an incident on special stage two.

Michael Harding and James Thorburn were non-starters due to a head gasket.

Adam Kaplan and Aleshia Penny lead the two-wheel-drive class in their Nissan 370Z from Haowen Chu and Pete Hellwig in the Ford Fiesta.

Round three of the CAMS Australian Rally Championship continues tomorrow with six stages and 119 competition kilometres to the north west of Canberra, concluding with a podium presentation at Pialligo Estate Service Park at 4pm.

Top Ten – after leg 1
1. EVANS/SEARCY 1:17:57.0
2. GLENNEY/SARANDIS 1:18:43.3 (+00:46.3)
3. COPPIN/WESTON 1:21:04.5 (+03:07.5)
4. SUMIYAMA/YASUI 1:22:19.0 (+04:22.0)
5. YOUNG/BECKWITH 1:27:11.7 (+09:14.7)
6. BATES/McCARTHY 1:27:23.5 (+09:26.5)
7. TAYLOR/READ 1:27:34.5 (+09:37.5)
8. MASUMURA/TANAKA 1:28:52.6 (+10:55.6)
9. KAPLAN/PENNEY 1:34:01.7 (+16:04.7)
10. CHU/HELLWIG 1:49:25.6 (+31:28.6)