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Toyota ace Simon Evans maintained his championship-winning form to dominate day one of coates Rally Queensland on the Sunshine Coast today.

Evans, with co-driver and wife Sue in a Toyota Corolla Sportivo, comfortably won every one of the eight stages in today’s opening heat of the NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship to bank a lead of one minute 35 seconds over West Australian privateer Dean Herridge (Subaru).

Crowds packed the spectator park in the Imbil State Forest to watch the cars, following a ceremonial start last night that attracted an estimated 5000 to Coolum Beach, in the Maroochy Shire.

Big crowds are also expected tonight for the start of Heat Two, the Pacific Ford Shootout super-special stage at Maroochy Showgrounds, Nambour.

Today was the best possible start to Evans’ defence of his 2006 Australian driver’s championship and coates Rally Queensland crowns, although he faces a further eight stages on the tough and dry gravel tracks in Heat Two tomorrow.

While Evans’ performance was predictable in the same, reliable car he drove last year, the story of the day was the interrupted progress of some other front runners and outstanding efforts from several “next generation” young drivers.

Simon Evans’ younger brother Eli, seeded fifth in a Subaru Impreza WRX, held second place all day until a spin and gear problems on the last stage dropped him to third.

Victorian Brendan Reeves, an 18-year-old product of the Australian Institute of Sport Rally Development Program, finished a sensational fourth – 4 min. 34.3 sec. behind Simon Evans – and ahead of some of the most seasoned competitors in the Australian Rally Championship. He had started 17th.

Will Orders, like Reeves, in a Subaru, set top three times but was unable to climb too far up the order after a minor engine problem cost time on the first stage.

And another AIS graduate, 18-year-old Molly Taylor, started second-last seed in the ARC field and pushed her modest two-wheel drive Mitsubishi Mirage to an amazing ninth.

Results failed to come the way of the most talked-about cars in the field, the new Super 2000-specification Ford Fiestas and Toyota Corolla.

Pirtek Rally Team leader Michael Guest ran strongly most of the day in his loud and spectacular Fiesta, finishing as high as fourth on one stage, but time lost replacing an engine drive belt on the road dropped him to 11th.

Guest’s teammate Darren Windus, lost his gearbox within one kilometre of starting the first stage. The gearbox was replaced in the service park, under supervision of visiting French representatives of its manufacturer Sadev, and Windus rejoined the action well down the order.

The Pirtek team, owned by V8 Supercar driver Jason Bright, described the failures as teething problems given that the Fiestas – making their world debuts – were completed only last Monday night in Melbourne.

Evans’ Toyota Racing Development teammate Neal Bates lost time with a fuel line problem and finished 14th in the debut of his S2000 Corolla.

In an unusual twist, Bates’ three-time champion co-driver Coral Taylor is the mother of Molly Taylor, who managed to finish five places ahead in her debut in the Australian championship.

News updates and detailed results for coates Rally Queensland are available at www.rally.com.au, the official website of the NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship.

RESULTS (Heat One)

  1. Simon Evans/Sue Evans (Toyota Corolla)
  2. Dean Herridge/bill Hayes (Subaru Impreza) +1 min. 35.0 sec. behind leader
  3. Eli Evans/Chris Murphy (Subaru Impreza) +2:00.9
  4. Brendan Reeves/Rhianon Smyth (Subaru Impreza) + 4:34.3
  5. Steven Shepheard/Tom Smith (Mitsubishi Lancer) _4:59.3
  6. Glenn Brinkman/Steven Richardson (Mitsubishi Lancer) + 5:41.4

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