Evans eying off ARC return in 2022

After some time on the sidelines of the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC), 2018 champion Eli Evans’ return to the ARC could come sooner than expected.

Having not contested the ARC since being crowned champion of Australia for the fourth time in 2018, Evans has been slowly redeveloping the Mini Cooper AP4 which featured as a small part of that championship-winning season.

Following on from his opening round podium in Victoria that year, Evans then switched to the Skoda Fabia R5 for the rest of the season –the first time an R5 car had run in the ARC. Evans went on to win three events and a podium over the next four rounds on his way to the title.

The Victorian then took a small break from the sport before choosing to revamp his Mini and work towards his eventual return to the ARC.

Since his departure, Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia’s Harry Bates and John McCarthy have dominated the ARC with the duo having won every rally run since the start of 2019.

Evans (pictured centre alongside co-driver Ben Searcy) on the top step of the 2018 Make Smoking History Forest Rally podium.

With Evans already a proven winner in the championship, the 38-year-old was hopeful of returning to Australia’s premier rally championship this year and giving Bates a proper challenge at the title with his Mini Cooper.

“Overall, the Mini Cooper AP4 is in an early development stage for version two and we have a list of things that we wanted to tidy up and fix ahead of our next event,” Evans said.

“It’s got a lot of potential and we’re quite happy with where it is at, but at this point there is still room for improvement, so I am in no rush to get back into the ARC.

“With that said, I am hopeful of running in the ARC at one point this year, maybe our local round, but it will come down to how the Mini goes in lead up events.

“I would like to be able to commit to the whole ARC season, but I just can’t yet, which is a shame… It’s important to get it right.

“I want to be able to compete with Harry and Lewis (Bates) and beat them, but the car isn’t in a winning position just yet as there are some niggling issues, so it’s important that we are patient and don’t rush our return.”

Should Evans make it to the first round of the 2022 ARC season in Canberra, he will enter the round with confidence after producing some encouraging performances as of late.

His most recent rally came at last month’s Till Hino Victorian Rally Championship (VRC) season finale, the Gippsland Rally, where he finished second overall.

Evans in action during the 2021 Gippsland Rally. (Photo: Bruce Keys)

With Adam Wright as his co-driver, Evans ended up winning the first heat over 2017 ARC champion, Nathan Quinn, before finishing sixth in the second and losing to eventual VRC champion, Darren Windus.

“We went pretty well and I had a lot of fun. I was quite happy with our results, especially since it was the first event with Adam,” Evans added.

“We grew up together and we lived together, so it was pretty cool to have someone like him sitting beside me. His dad even competed with my dad and my brother (Simon Evans) at some points, so it was a nice little event for us.

“We had some issues during the event and at one point I was thinking about pulling out as we had no boost for the second heat– but we ended up pushing on and I am glad we did because it was a good result.

“The car is light, looks fantastic and makes the right noises. We still need to get a proper race engine in it as the one we have is basic, but I am happy with the car and we should be more competitive once we get suspension and chassis balance.”

Feature Photo: Bruce Keys