Bathurst’s Ian Plenderleith, with Canberra based co-driver Mel McMinn, will head into this week’s first round of the Pipe King Southern Cross Rally Series in Oberon with plenty of confidence.

Last year’s issues, ranging from a sticking throttle, shattered windscreen and broken gearbox, meant their return from the sidelines has taken a little longer than expected. The team is now aiming to compete in the full 2017 rally season, including rounds in Bega and Orange.

Ian Plenderleith is fired up for the 2017 rally season. (Photo: Rallyetrack Photography)Their Lancer Evolution III was initially built in Western Australia, and went on to be campaigned by Pedders Australia and won the ACT state championship, before coming into Ian’s ownership.

“It is just brilliant to drive, it really has the feel of a car that wants to be driven hard. It is planted and controlled, but also very responsive,” enthused Ian.

Initially the car was just used as a safety vehicle, but by the end 2016 it was ready to compete at the infamously long Orange event, and everything came together and the team recorded second outright.

“Mel and I were really surprised to find ourselves sitting second at the end of Saturday in Orange. We were just trying to keep our nose clean, driving conservatively to protect the car and get to the end of the rally with no problems.

“We lost almost two minutes on the first stage with no boost, but that was quickly fixed and the car was perfect for the rest of the rally.”

While plans were in place to rebuild the gearbox over the summer, delays have resulted in only a very basic summer program of maintenance.

"Nigel at Buttriss Smash Repairs offered to get the gearbox out for me, but it just became unrealistic with my schedule,” Ian explained.

This meant that only a shock absorber was rebuilt and other very minor changes have been made.

“We had a suspension leak and were losing some brake fluid in Orange, so we have fixed those issues.”

Looking toward the rest of year, plans are well underway for a big 2017. With the gearbox rebuild scheduled for after this event, the team are already planning ahead for the year.

Speaking for the service crew, Matt Walther said: “After a problem free run at the Orange Rally in the latter part of last year, I am excited the see what the venerable Evo III is capable of both at individual rallies and over the course of the full season.”

Going into the season the team are remaining realistic, but with hopes that a considered approach to the year will net a good result.

“We are not in a position to be throwing brand new tyres at the car every service and doing rebuilds all year. The hope is we can prove our ability at the start of the year and then look to get some support from local businesses.

“We already get some help from Buttriss Smash Repair, Goodyear Auto Care and Panorama Road Safety, but with motorsport, cost is always the biggest consideration.”

- Team release

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