Three-time Australian Rally Champion, Eli Evans, is targeting victory in this weekend's Eureka Rally in Ballarat, despite the event being just the third rally for his Mini Cooper AP4.
After some teething problems with the new Mini at the National Capital Rally and Rally Australia last year, the car comes to Ballarat freshly rebuilt and ready for the season ahead.
"It seems like the car has been around for ages, but this will only be its third ARC round," Evans told RallySport Magazine.
After the car's debut in Canberra last May, Evans missed the Rally of South Australia after the death of his mother, then returned for the season finale in Coffs Harbour.
"It's still a new car and we're always going to get surprises, but hopefully there's not too many and we can fix them on the run."
Eli Evans and the Mini Cooper AP4 showed promise at Rally Australia last November. Photo: Peter Whitten
Evans and new co-driver, Ben Searcy, will test the Mini near Ballarat tomorrow (Thursday) – the first time the car will have seen action since November.
"We've tidied up a few things that went wrong at Rally Australia, and have given the engine a freshen up and a re-tune," Evans said.
"There are a few 'rally proof' parts we've added, and we have also installed a new Sadev gearbox."
Evans says the new gearbox features different ratios that should give the car more drive out of corners, and make the car easier to drive.
"Last year I felt I was getting caught between gears in corners, so the new gearbox should make the whole package more useable."
He admits that he never goes into any rally to lose, and will be pushing hard for a win, but is under no illusion that there could still be teething problems.
"My team manager keeps saying the goal is to finish and get some good points, but I'll definitely be out there to win!"
Eli Evans pushed the Mini to its limit at the Raleigh Raceway stage at Rally Australia. Photo: Luke Whitten
Evans will start the event as car one on the road, and with little rain in the area in recent times, a dry and dusty event is expected.
"Being car one means the roads will be slippery, but if it remains dry that could prove to be an advantage," Evans says.
"If the wind dies down then it's more of a challenge for those seeded behind us, so car one might actually be a bonus."
Saturday's weather for the Eureka Rally in Ballarat is forecast to be 29 degrees with winds up to 21km/h, while Sunday should see slightly stronger winds and a temperature of 21 degrees.
Evans' main championship rivals are expected to be Harry Bates in his Toyota Yaris AP4, and Molly Taylor's factory Subaru WRX.
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