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Simon Evans has placed one hand on the 2009 Australian Rally Championship trophy after today crushing a strong field during heat one of the Sprint Auto Parts Rally SA.

Leading the championship by just 8 points prior to the weekend, Evans now leads former teammate Neal Bates by a much more comfortable margin ahead of tomorrow’s final, championship deciding heat.

To give their title defence more grief, four-time champ Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor failed to finish today after an alternator failed at the start of the eighth stage after the pair hard run consistently in thrid place all event.

Should Evans and wife Sue hold off Bates for the championship, it will be the first title for a Mitsubishi driver since South Australian Rallying Icon Ed Ordynski won the title in 1990, driving a Galant VR4. Evans won his last two titles driving Toyotas, ironically for Neal Bates’ team.

Evans dominated today’s heat – made up of nine stages contested last night and across today – by a crushing 1m12 seconds.

Toyota privateers Glen and Matt Raymond finished second in their Toyota Corolla Group N (P), a remarkable effort since the crew missed both Super Special stages on Friday night after breaking a gearbox during Friday mornings Pedders ‘No Bull’ Shootout.

Eli Evans and co-driver Glen Weston scored third, though that position could have been higher but for a 30-second late penalty after the car was delayed by six minutes during this morning’s first service.

Simon’s younger brother pressed hard all day and only secured his third-place on the final stage after chasing down Victorian Mitsubishi combo of Justin Dowel and Mat Lee.

The Evans Motorsport crew were forced to fix a damaged rear control arm on the WRS STi after Eli clipped a barrier on the second run around the Coates Super Special on Friday night.

Simon and Sue Evans began their path to victory on Friday night, when the Evans Builders Mitsubishi Lancer Evo won the first trials around the 1.4km Coates Super Special stage at the Angaston Oval.

In damp and slippery conditions, the two-time Australian Rally Champion (2006 & 2007) then won SS3, the 14-km goldfields stage, by 14 seconds and the following run across Tweedies by three over his brother, Eli.

By the sixth stage of heat one Evans led Glen Raymond by a massive fifty seconds, with Bates and Coral Taylor holding down third in close quarters with the youngster, driving an ex-Bates car.  

From there Evans completed the heat by winning the remaining stages and take maximum points, with Raymond securing second when Bates’ alternator failed as the car waited to start the eighth stage, the second run around Mount Crawford.  

Heat two gets underway tonight with another two runs around the Coats Super Special stage at the Angaston Oval before more stages tomorrow, including the daunting Eden High, one of the most challenging stages in the entire championship.

RESULTS – Heat 1, Sprint Auto Parts Rally SA

1. Evans / Evans (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX)                   59m30.5
2. Raymond / Raymond (Toyota Corolla Group N-P)       + 1m12.0
3. Evans / Weston (Subaru Impreza WRX STi)                 + 1m42.6
4. Dowell / Lee (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX)                      + 1m43.7
5. Shepheard / McCarthy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X)        + 3m51.1
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