Eli Evans closes in on historic victory
- 26th May 2013, 9:27am
Eli started the day with a single second lead over his nearest rival Scott Pedder, having taken both stage wins on last nights Gawler stage. And over the course of the day he only continued to increase the lead, taking six stage wins to Pedder’s two, the final margin 18.7 seconds.
“It’s been another perfect day for me,” said Eli. “I started in front and held that position throughout the day. When I needed to I was able to extend the lead and that gives me a lot of confidence.”
“I don’t know what sort of day the other drivers have had, maybe they’ve had problems, which means tomorrow they could well come out and give me a surprise.”
“The (Honda) Jazz has been faultless though, the team have worked so hard between events and it just keeps getting better and better,” Eli continued. “The only real issue we had today was that we cracked another windscreen, through a dip that I’d marked as a ‘jump maybe’, well it turned out to be a definite jump and it hit hard and cracked the screen.”
For second placed Scott Pedder finishing runner up again might be starting to become a cause for concern, the Renault driver has been unable to better Evans since the opening Heat of Round 1 in Canberra.
“We haven’t been able to get on top of Eli recently but it’s a case of a lot of different little things. It’s the third event for the car, third event for the team and the third event for me since my return, so we’ve been on the back foot so to finish second again is pretty good considering,” said Scott.
“Today it’s been lots of niggly problems all day. First we had an issue with the flat shift, so I’ve had to use the clutch between gears. Then we hit something and threw out the wheel alignment. And now the dash has stopped working, which means we have no shift lights, and in these cars you’re pretty reliant on knowing when to change so you’re not over-revving the engine.”
The Renault team was hurriedly changing the gearbox on both Pedder and teammate Tom Wilde’s car at tonight’s service, Pedder explaining why. “We ran a tall gear today for the fast stages, but it’s lacking pull, so we’re going back to the same set of gear ratios we ran at the first two Rounds.”
In a positive sign Brendan Reeves had a clean run through the day, having been blighted by technical dramas throughout the year, to finish third outright today.
“It’s been a really good day, the car felt great and we’re making really good steps forward all the time,” Reeves stated. “Although we had a clean day we still have some work to get onto the top step. Today I felt I was on the pace of Scott Pedder but Eli Evans is just that bit too fast for us right now.”
“Today we were good on tyres, so we have plenty left for tomorrow. I’m happy with the road conditions, we’re getting great grip and with no dust, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow because I think of got lots more to prove,” Brendan added.
Will Orders took full advantage of the hard packed roads to push his Nissan Silvia into fourth behind Reeves, despite spending the day feeding oil into his engine and mopping up excess oil from his engine bay.
“We probably put 5 or 6 litres of oil through the car today. I think we’ve lubricated every part of the engine bay, even things that didn’t need it!” Orders laughed.
Having suffered injector concerns during yesterday’s Power Stage qualifying, Orders was setback when he couldn’t source replacements in time to make last night’s two stages in Gawler.
“We found some replacement injectors at the eleventh hour, it was too late to make the stages last night, so we’ll be given a derived time. Then today, we’ve been spending so much time on the rev limiter what happens is the engine starts pumping oil out of the breather, so we’re having to get to the end of the stage and keep replacing the oil that’s come out.”
Two minutes off the pace in fifth Tom Wilde was left scratching his head trying to work out how to ensure he’s more competitive tomorrow. “I’m a bit puzzled,” he said.
“I think it’s all about confidence, I’m just not used to these fast roads, which are quite narrow and have big trees right next to the edge. It’s the only rally in the Championship which is like this, so I’m just not as comfortable as the other guys to really push. I don’t want to go out tomorrow, push harder and do something silly either,” Wilde added.
Mark Pedder had a quiet day in sixth, over a minute off fifth placed Wilde and more than forty seconds ahead of seventh placed Michael Boaden.
“I’ve made it to the end of a Heat, which considering my recent form is great!” Mark said. “I’m just not consistent, one stage I’ll set a good time but on the next my time will be totally horrible, that’s my problem. I’ve got to trust the car more and push harder.”
Seeing steady improvements in his stage times pleased Boaden as he slowly gets tuned into the Volkswagen Polo. “I haven’t had any real problems today, so it’s been a good day.”
“I’m playing around with the suspension, trying to find what’s best for me still. On one stage I’ll set it a bit softer, but then two stages later it’ll feel too soft. With the old car, my Evo, I knew it back to front, where as with this car I’m still trying to learn what works and what doesn’t,” continued Boaden.
On her return visit from Europe Molly Taylor had a strong day in her Fiesta R2, despite a late headache with a broken gearshift mounting, in the end she finished eighth.
“The gear selector turret came out of the floor, so my co-driver Seb had to hold it in place with the hand brake, which meant I had to reach around his arm to change gears, that was a bit of an adventure!” she said with a huge smile.
“So I’d say it’s been an interesting day, the last loop of stages the car worked really well. But above all I’m just happy to be back rallying in Australia, especially here in South Australia, it’s a rally I absolutely love!”
Steve Mackenzie and Adrian Coppin dueled all day, in the end the pair of Fiesta drivers were split by a miniscule 1.3 seconds. “It’s been a massive tussle all day, it’s been a great fight,” said Coppin despite losing out in the end.
Away from the leading combatants a mixed day for Jack Monkhouse, Nicholas Box and Brett Middleton.
Monkhouse managed to finish the day in twelfth, but was beset by a major coolant issue. “I could hear the fan belt was squealing pretty loudly and when we pulled up there was coolant pouring out of the car. We tried to put water in the car but it was coming back out just as fast. We towed it back, replaced the water pump, and got back out there to at least get some points.”
Not so much luck for Box, his problems a little more terminal. “We had a big jump and the car landed hard, to the point I’ve now got a pretty sore back. It took out the sump guard, and jammed the radiator, and all the fans back into the engine. We lost all the water, I kept driving thinking it’d help but pretty quickly I knew the engine was gone.”
On the very same stage a different situation but a similar outcome for Brett Middleton. “Exactly the same as WA, about 3km before the end of the stage the engine went. I didn’t see the temperature gauge or the warning lights, by the time I did the temp was 149 degrees. We pulled over for about a minute and a half to try to let it cool down, then it wouldn’t restart. Two blown engines in two Rounds!”
The final stage, SS11 Tower Road 2, was cancelled by event organisers following substantial timing delays during the day.
In the National 4WD category the ‘Dash for Justin Dowel’s Cash’ looks to be heading the way of Declan Dwyer, as long as the local driver can maintain his pace tomorrow. Dowel though isn’t giving up yet, second today, and promising a concerted effort during Heat 2 to hang on to his $2,000 prize pool.
While Neal Bates and his Celica RA40 dominated the ever-sideways Classic Championship, the Canberran driver often setting stages times faster than the outright 2WD contenders and their 4WD counterparts. Bates final margin nearly five minutes ahead of second placed Neville Whittenbury.
Tomorrow’s second Heat consists of seven stages including the monster 31.73km Tweeden, the demanding final stage of this year’s Scouts Rally SA.
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