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Simon Evans and Ben Searcy have won the 2016 Quit Forest Rally, the opening round of the Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship® in Nannup, Western Australia, today.

It wasn’t a walk in the park for the four-time Australian Rally Champion with Evans/Searcy pushed all the way by young gun Harry Bates and his co-driver John McCarthy.

Both Evans/Searcy and Bates/McCarthy finished the event with the same points based on their positions in both Heat One and Heat Two, however, the bonus point given to Evans/Searcy for recording the most stage wins during the event was enough to hand them the event victory.

“It’s a long trip over here so you always want to make sure you get some points but I love this, I just love being out here,” Evans said. “The way I look at it they’ve closed all the forests off just for me so it’s just fantastic,” he continued.  

“The young fellas (Bates/McCarthy) just caught us unawares,” Simon said. “We were pretty happy with our pace, sweeping the roads out the front, and I thought everything was pretty sweet and then someone said ‘Harry’s kicking your butt’ and I was like; damn it,” Simon joked on the podium.

“Simon and I will leave here on a similar amount of points which for me is obviously still beyond what I expected coming into the weekend, so I think although I’m disappointed I’m not a bit closer to him today and that we couldn’t get that top spot but we still need to be happy with the weekend,” Bates said.

Justin Dowel/Toni Feaver and Molly Taylor/Bill Hayes finished the event on equal points in the race for the final spot on the podium. The tie was broken by calculating the total competitive time for each crew across the entire event, with Dowel/Feaver the crew ultimately joining Evans/Searcy and Bates/McCarthy in third outright.

Disaster struck for Mark Pedder/Dale Moscatt on the third last stage of the event, a broken tie rod signalling the end of their rally and robbing them from an almost guaranteed position on the podium.

The opening round of the Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship ran alongside the ARC with dramas for all the pre-event favourites across the weekend throwing a blanket over the field and leaving it up to the final stage to determine the ultimate winner.

Asia Pacific Rally Championship contender Mike Young and his co-driver Cameron Tunstall backed up their Heat One victory with a strong fourth over today’s stages giving them enough points to take the outright victory for the weekend.

Following a broken drive shaft and a timing penalty leaving them well down the order in Heat One, local Nannup driver Tom Wilde and his co-driver Nick Clements recovered to win Heat Two by 24.4 seconds handing them a second outright for the weekend. Michael Steele/Tracey Dewhurst finished the event in third outright.

Neal Bates and Coral Taylor once again took top spot on the podium in the Australian Classic Rally Challenge. John Ludlam/Justin Willis finished in second and Andy van Kann/Madelin Kirkhouse in third.

Jason and Paul Lowther were victorious in the Clubman Cup Series, winning by the narrowest of margins (2.3 seconds) over Dene Courtis/Robert King with Carl and Tracey Rattenbury rounding out the podium for the event.

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