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Two-time Australian Rally Champion, Eli Evans, will return to active competition at this month’s Rally of Queensland, driving the Honda Civic that he contested the ARC in during 2010 and 2011.

Yet his appearance in the event will only be in the Queensland Rally Championship (QRC) component of the rally, due to budget constraints.

Evans and co-driver, Glen Weston, took the Australian title in 2012 and 2013 after dominant performances in a factory-supported Honda Jazz, however, with the Japanese manufacturer withdrawing from the ARC at the end of 2013, they have been left to fund their rally program themselves.

Eli Civic 2011Eli Evans driving the Honda Civic in the 2011 Rally Victoria.Rather than chasing points in the national championship, Evans is entering the event as practice for the Rally of Estonia, which he will contest in a YAS Motorsport prepared Honda Civic from July 17 to 19.

“We’re entering the Queensland Championship component of the event, just to get some kays in the car, and we’ll run Pirelli tyres on the car to get some practice for Estonia,” Evans told RallySport Mag.

“We don’t have Honda support anymore, so it’s very much an Evans Motorsport car now. There’s no Mugen engine, so we’ve had to build our own engine and we’re in the process of tuning and setting up that now. Hopefully it’s a strong thing and it will liven the car up a fair bit.”

After leasing Justin Dowel’s Volkswagen Polo at the National Capital Rally in March, only to come away with just three points in his title defence, Evans waved goodbye to his championship hopes for 2014. As a result, the decision to contest the QRC event in Queensland was easy.

“To run in the Asia-Pacific or ARC component of the event you have to upgrade your fire bomb, so it’s a decision based on cost, and it’s money we probably don't need to spend on that area of the car,” he added.

“We’re still spending the money, but in other areas. I’d love to be at every rally and have an endless budget, but it’s just not possible.”

The week after Rally Queensland Evans may contest a club rallysprint back home in Victoria, getting more time in the driver’s seat.

“The priority for me is not the ARC, it’s Estonia, and if I can get more kilometres in before I go to Estonia, then we’ll do that.

“But it depends how the car comes out of Queensland, so there are a lot of unknowns at the minute.”

Eli-EvansFollowing that, he flies out to Estonia for that country’s round of the European Rally Championship where’ he’ll drive an FIA homologated Honda Civic Tyre R R3.

“I’m really excited to get me over there, so hopefully we can do the car justice and get a good result for all the work they’re putting in.

“The car has a Mugen engine and should be really competitive. We have a day and a half of testing before the rally to get used to the new car.

“Our main rivals will be the Renault Clio (like that which we battle in Australia), and the Citroen DS3. There’s very few Honda Civics that compete in the R3 class, so for us to do well would mean a lot for YAS Motorsport and for Honda in Europe as well, so we’re going to do the best we can.”

Back on home shores, Evans has Rally South Australia in his sights and is keen to return to an event that he enjoys.

“The plan is to get across to South Australia as it’s an event I’ve always done well on. The roads are quite easy on the car as well – after some of the harsher events the car needs a full rebuild, but SA is a little bit easier on the car, so it’s less expensive to do in terms of maintenance,” Evans explained.

“We’re hoping that the Civic is going to have a decent amount of horsepower and can really chase the Mazda and the Renault down on the faster stages that it will be suited to.

“The Civic is a bigger car, so it’s like Brendan (Reeves) rallying a Mazda3 and Scott (Pedder) running a Renault Megane, in terms of size.

“We’ve got about a 100kg weight disadvantage just because of the slightly bigger chassis compared to the Honda Jazz, so the extra horsepower’s going to be needed I think. Hopefully we’ve got it and can take it to the boys in round four.”

Evans is also planning an entry in the final ARC round of the year, Rally Victoria, in November.

- Peter Whitten

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