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With less than a week until the National Capital Rally, the opening Round of the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship, Eli Evans is well aware that repeating his stellar performances of last season will be far from an easy task.

After debuting the brand new Honda Jazz at last year’s Rally Calder, Evans stood on the top step of the podium at each and every Round, dominating the series and taking all but two Heat wins when he fell foul of flat tyres.

“Last year is last year though,” the young Victorian said. “I think this year is going to be the toughest challenge by far. There are some World class drivers I’m going to be up against, so I’m going to have to improve even further, and I’m mindful that I have a huge target on my back.”

Since his arrival in the Australian Rally Championship, Evans has had a steep hill to climb, carrying the Evans surname naturally carries comparisons to the exploits of older brother Simon. After progressing through the ranks in all-wheel drive Subaru’s, including a year spent on the Asia-Pacific circuit as teammate to multiple Champion Cody Crocker, Evans arrived back in Australia and joined forces with Honda.

“I’ve learnt a lot over the years, and my approach and style has changed a lot too,” explained Evans. “I’ve learnt that you don’t always need to be the fastest on every stage, that that’s not how you win rallies, and that’s definitely not how you win a Championship.”

“I’ve learnt to drive smarter, and I think that comes with age and maturity, but also respecting your competition. Last year my aim was to finish in front, even if it was only by one second.”

With last season representing a transition for the ARC from four-wheel drive to two-wheel drive, this year’s entry list signifies a dramatic increase in potential foes for Evans to fend off.

“It’s all a huge unknown at this point and we really won’t know who our major threats are until we get to the end of that first stage in Canberra,” said Evans.

“But we know Brendan (Reeves) will be quick in the Mazda, and you’ve got Scott Pedder back on the scene, plus a bunch of really talented guys all getting into front-wheel drive cars this year. It’s exciting, I really can’t wait to get to the first round!”

A fresh batch of local hot shots aside, Evans is particularly looking forward to going head-to-head with Elfyn Evans at the National Capital Rally.

“Elfyn is the best young driver in the World at the moment, so going up against him will be great. He’s in a car a class down on us, the Fiesta is a 1.6 litre as opposed to the Honda’s 2 litre, but I doubt that’s going to hold him up too much, he’ll be out to knock us all off.”

While the Honda Jazz was the toast of the two-wheel drive field last season, Evans realizes that the team can’t rest on their laurels, and a test session is already planned to refine the setup and handling.

“Like anything we’re always trying to find ways to get more out of the car,” Evans explained. “In a front drive car the key is eliminating wheel spin, which is about finding more grip. So we’ve got some ideas to improving the suspension and the chassis and we’ll put those into a test session next week to see if we’re heading in the right direction.”

“We know we have a fast car, now we just need to make sure it’s even faster for this year!”

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