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With four stages making up Heat One at Rally Victoria it was always going to be a sprint full of surprises, and it didn’t disappoint with Brendan Reeves showing incredible pace, Scott Pedder ending up off road, Eli Evans securing an unexpected win and Honda securing the manufacturer’s Championship.
 
The afternoon began with Reeves powering out of the starting blocks on the unbelievably slippery Ada River stage by a remarkable 6.6 seconds, with all drivers complaining about the atrociously boggy conditions they encountered.
 
Reeves would then extend that lead by a further 2.8 seconds on the 13.6km Gunns stage to lead Eli into the service break by 9.4 seconds.
 
“I had great balance with the car,” explained Brendan of his advantage. “It felt like a Super 2000 car, I could get it inch perfect on every apex.”
 
While Reeves was elated with his times archrival Evans was left scratching his head. “Being 9 seconds down after two stages was a worry, we had a big chat at service and I wasn’t feeling that confident heading into the final two stages of the day.”
 
Running first on the road Evans arrived at the finish control of the third stage, the repeat of Ada River, to find that he’d gone a full one second slower than his stage time on the first run.
 
“I drove that stage as hard as I could, so to get to the finish and see I was slower, I just couldn’t believe it. At that stage I thought I was at least 15 seconds down on Brendan, and heading into the last stage that’s all I could think about,” said Evans.
 
In fact, unbeknownst to Eli, while he’d gone slower than his first run he had in fact been 9.6 seconds faster than Reeves and had reclaimed the lead by a slender 0.2 seconds overall.
 
Thinking he was up to 15 seconds down Eli charged, threw caution to the wind, and charged through the last stage to claim the Heat by 3.2 seconds.
 
“I’m so glad I attacked otherwise we wouldn’t have won,” said a relieved Eli. “On that last stage I honestly had no idea we were actually ahead of Brendan. I think I can say that is one of the best drives I’ve ever had in the (Honda) Jazz.”
 
“I look forward now to tomorrow on roads I really enjoy. They are fast and wide, and I’m going to attack every corner until there isn’t a single bit of rubber left on the tyres!” Eli exclaimed.
 
Meanwhile Reeves was upbeat despite coming close to a Heat victory. “I knew his times and I knew what was at stake. Unfortunately I made two big mistakes on the third stage and that’s what cost us the big lead we’d built,” said Brendan.
 
“It was a good day, we used less tyres that Eli did, and we know we have the speed to match him and beat him. So I head into tomorrow confident that if we do a good job we have a chance to win,” he added.
 
Back on the opening stage disaster for Scott Pedder who broke the steering on his Renault Clio, which dropped him off the road and beached his car in the wet and muddy conditions.
 
Disappointment on the very first corner of the opening stage for veteran Neal Bates, who arrived too fast and similarly, beached his Celica on a hidden stump. “Just too fast, ran wide and went off – simple as that,” he explained.

The hidden stump bent the rear differential housing on the Classic Celica, forcing Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor to limp through the remaining three stages before the damaged components could be changed.
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