Evans holds the aces ahead of Rally Victoria
- 14th November 2013, 9:02am
Despite all three drivers being Victorian locals, only Eli has ever contested Rally Victoria previously. In comparison both Pedder and Reeves have yet to compete on the roads Shire of Baw Baw forests in their current ARC configuration.
“I’ve driven some of those roads as a Victorian State Round,” said Scott Pedder. “But we’re talking 10, maybe even 15 years ago!”
“It’s quite funny in a way that the Victorian with the most experience in the ARC will start this rally with the least experience!” added Scott. “Competing this weekend will be all new to me, but it’s good to know Brendan is in pretty much the same boat.”
Meanwhile Reeves has a slight advantage, he drove zero car on the first running of Rally Victoria in 2010, although that year was blighted by heavy rain.
“I have some experience, although we only drove some of the stages and that was only at a medium pace,” explained Reeves. “I’ve done a lot of rallies since then so I don’t have a great memory for the roads we did see.”
“All the roads this year I’ve treated like new roads with brand new notes, so it’s probably a bigger disadvantage to Scott than it is to me. I think this weekend plays to Eli’s advantage, so I’m expecting he’ll be very fast right from the very start,” said Brendan.
Pedder agreed, stating: “Local knowledge of where you can go fast and where you need to take caution is certainly an advantage, so Eli definitely holds the upper hand before the rally even starts.”
The pure pace of Evans has made him virtually untouchable this season, with his impressive record now standing at 11 wins from 11 Rounds, a record he’ll be looking to extend by the time he reaches the finish ramp at Rally Victoria.
“I certainly don’t think Eli is untouchable. Sure his car is very fast and very strong. I think we can win but I need everything to go well for that to happen. Like most Australian Rally Champions he’s had his luck this year, where others haven’t,” commented Pedder.
Pre-event testing has proven crucial in honing a setup that suits the roads and the conditions, but Reeves and the rallyschool.com.au Mazda team have found themselves out of luck with a test session planned for last weekend in Sydney cancelled due to the recent bushfires.
“It’s a shame as I really wanted to spend some extra time in the car,” said Reeves. “The team says Simon Evans really enjoyed driving the Mazda on these roads last year. From what I’ve seen of some in-car footage they look quote narrow with fast, long corners. I’ve always preferred fast roads but I’m not sure how I’m going to feel on the roads this weekend.”
Heavy rain had been predicted to affect the rally in the lead up, however a change to the forecast is now bringing the hope of cool, mostly sunny conditions for both drivers and spectators.
The top three drivers will be followed by the rapidly improving Tom Wilde, who has managed to bridge the pace gap to the outright trio throughout the year. He’ll have to keep an eye on his mirrors though for local ace Glen Raymond in his Mazda RX7 followed by the second Honda of Mark Pedder.
It will be an emotional weekend for the Honda team, their last outing in the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship before bidding farewell. It’s been a remarkable run of success for the Japanese manufacturer since their initial foray in the sport in 2009 with Brit Guy Wilks, including the past two drivers titles with Eli Evans and the potential to secure the manufacturers title this season.
“Honda have been amazing over the past few years,” said Eli Evans. “They’ve supported me incredibly, as well as my family and the team, and my aim is definitely to send them out on a high come the end of the rally.”
Down the entry list a welcome return for former Toyota Team Racing driver Ben Barker who will fight it out with Neal Bates in the Classics, while the two-wheel drive section welcomes back Victorian Ashlea James, not seen since the Corolla Cup days of the late 90’s.
The leading contenders will be scrambling to secure second outright in the National 4WD series while Cody Crocker and Michael Guest will resume their season long duel in the Side-by-Side Challenge.
The action kicks off Lardner Park in Victoria’s West Gippsland, just an hours drive from Melbourne, on Friday morning with the running of the Pedder’s Suspension Power Stage before the rally proper kicks off on Friday afternoon with four forestry stages totaling just over 55 competitive kilometres.
Heat 2 begins on Saturday morning with a further 6 forest special stages, including the spectacular new 33.56km Limber lost stage which runs twice. The action then returns to Lardner Park for a quick 2.3km blast around the showgrounds and lake before the champagne is sprayed to mark the end of an incredible 2013 season.
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