Tankformers Eli Evans has dominated heat one of the Make Smoking History Forest Rally in the Skoda Fabia R5’s CAMS Australian Rally Championship (ARC) debut.
Evans and co-driver Ben Searcy finished two minutes ahead of the second placed Contel Communications Subaru WRX STI of Steve Glenney and Andy Sarandis. Glen Raymond and Kate Catford secured third in the Sky Refrigeration Subaru WRX STI, 30 seconds adrift of Glenney.
Evans was understandably thrilled with his clean sweep of today’s eight stages.
“I just wanted to stay aggressive this morning and come out of the blocks quick and it is pleasing to know that we could do that,” said Evans.
He was full of praise for the Skoda Fabia R5.
“It’s a world rally two spec car, it’s one down from the world rally car essentially and it’s really easy to drive. You can feel the amount of effort, time and money that has been put into these cars in their design and build.
“I’ve felt a lot of pressure being in the R5 car, I think I’ve had 200 people tell me that I was going to win and it’s the fastest car by far. It’s nice to hear that but you’ve got to get in the car and you’ve got to do it.
“It was stressing me out and I said to Ben we just have to do our absolute best, keep it nice and clean and keep the nose pointing straight.”
Despite playing catch up for much of the day, Glenney was happy with second place.
“It’s better than third,” he joked.
“Eli has driven the car [Skoda] beautifully today but it’s in a different league to what we are running so we just forget that and try to be the best of the rest. The championship is a long thing, consistency is the key.”
Returning to the unique WA roads as a driver for the first time in 12 years, Glenney admitted to finding today’s stages tricky.
“It’s just so, so slippery. It’s crazy. Enjoyable. I found a bit of rhythm this afternoon though.”
And the Tasmanian’s day was not without drama.
“I jumped the car into a little hole and we broke an arm but we fixed that,” he explained.
“We had to nurse it through that last stage and that was quite nerve racking, we didn’t know if we were going to lose minutes or stop all together but we got there so all good.”
Raymond’s transition from his Mitsubishi Evo IX to the borrowed Subaru WRX STI was smooth, the Victorian experiencing a trouble-free run to claim third for the heat.
Subaru do Motorsport’s Molly Taylor and Malcolm Read had to settle for fourth today, with Taylor admitting that they are searching for answers to find pace in the Subaru WRX STI.
“We’re scratching our heads a little bit to be honest. We had the pace in Ballarat but we didn’t get to put it together and here we don’t have the pace at all and it’s obviously frustrating because we feel like we are trying,” Taylor said.
WA’s notoriously slippery roads claimed a number of teams throughout the day. Yes! Optus’ Adrian Coppin and Erin Kelly found themselves stranded on today’s second stage with a broken control arm after clipping a stump on the apex of a corner. Some bush mechanics eventually got them back to service to rejoin the heat for the day’s final two stages.
Toytoa Genuine Parts’ Harry Bates and John McCarthy came to grief on the fourth stage of the morning, the Yaris AP4 finishing on its side off the road. Both Bates and McCarthy were unhurt in the incident and will also make repairs to rejoin the event.
Harry’s brother Lewis and co-driver Dale Moscatt experienced a high-speed spin on special stage six and were lucky to escape without damage; another young gun Wayne Morton also had a torrid day, with several spins as he attempted to come to grips with the slippery conditions on his debut Forest Rally.
Crews head back to Barnard Park this evening for the start of heat two, with one run of the 5.28 kilometre Trade Hire Busselton Super Special Stage. Heat two will continue tomorrow with another eight stages around the forests of Nannup, concluding with a podium presentation in the Nannup township.
HEAT ONE TOP TEN (PROVISIONAL)
1. #4 EVANS/SEARCY 1:02:11.4
2. #3 GLENNEY/SARANDIS 1:04:11.9 (+02:00.5)
3. #6 RAYMOND/CATFORD 1:04:41.9 (+02:30.5)
4. #5 TAYLOR/READ 1:05:36.7 (+03:25.3)
5. #9 MARKOVIC/FEAVER 1:07:20.9 (+05:09.5)
6. #10 BATES/MOSCATT 1:09:05.4 (+06:54.0)
7. #14 O’DOWD/WILDE 1:09:05.5 (+06:54.1)
8. #12 DUNKERTON/DUNKERTON 1:10:26.8 (+08:15.4)
9. #13 MORTON/PENNY 1:10:52.8 (+08:41.4)
10. #15 KAPLAN/PENNEY 1:26:41.1 (+24:29.7)
11. #16 CHU/ALCORN 1:28:37.2 (+26:25.8)
12. #11 PENNY/PRESTON 1:46:21.5 (+44:10.1)
13. #7 COPPIN/KELLY 2:00:32.9 (+58:21.5)
#2 BATES/MCCARTHY (incomplete)