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Eli Evans dream run of victories continued last weekend, and as his chief rival Scott Pedder faulted, it allowed Evans to clinch his second straight title with one Round still remaining in the 2013 East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship.
 
With the ECB ARC moving to outright two-wheel drive this year, following on from a split two-wheel and four-wheel drive Championship last year, Evans admits that lofting the trophy at last weekend’s Rally Australia felt a lot more fulfilling the second time around.
 
“Last year felt a bit like a class win, this year feels like a proper Championship win though. It feels a lot more special,” Eli said.
 
“Last year was a split Championship and the guys in the four-wheel drives were taking outright stage times off us, so I was happy when four-wheel drive Champion Michael Boaden decided to come across to two-wheel drive this year, it felt like a proper combining of the titles.”
 
Evans, and co-driver Glen Weston, led from start to finish in Coffs Harbour, a trend that has plagued their rivals throughout the year. Their incredible consistency has so far netted them eleven Round wins in a row, and allowed Eli to claim the title with one Round still to go.
 
“It’s a really cool feeling to have won the Championship in five Rounds with one rally still left. The pressure is off for Rally Victoria but I still want to win, to send the Jazz and Honda off in style,” continued Eli.
 
“Two Australian Rally Championships at 29 years of age, and I reckon I’ve still got ten good years ahead of me, hopefully there will be a lot more Championship trophies on my wall in that time!”
 
Despite claiming victory the weekend wasn’t entirely smooth sailing for Evans who struggled with excessive tyre wear and a fierce challenge from Brendan Reeves.
 
“It was a very challenging weekend in many ways, I don’t think I’ve ever had to purposefully drive slower to go faster.”
 
“The 50 kilometre stage was obviously very demanding, the challenge of driving front-wheel drive cars with between 250 and 300 horsepower, and making sure the tyres lasted was pretty tough,” Eli explained.
 
“I took advantage of the clear run on Friday, I knew the guys behind would have some issues with dust. On the Saturday I went out to win the day but was just out done by Brendan (Reeves). It was actually great to see Brendan and Rhiannon getting up to speed, I know how hard they’ve both worked this year.”
 
“And on the Sunday, apart from Brendan, I knew Scott (Pedder) would be determined to go out hard, to try to put a horrible weekend behind him. Scott had a point to prove, so I knew he’d be hard to beat.”
 
“I probably relaxed a bit in my driving on Sunday and Brendan took 19 seconds out of us. It just shows if you back off a bit it can cost you.”
 
Evans was quick to praise his main rivals, believing their speed has pushed him over the past two years to continue to develop as a driver.
 
“Scott, Brendan and Tom (Wilde) are such fast drivers, so to hold them off consistently all year feels really good,” he said. “I’m constantly learning against guys like Scott Pedder and Brendan Reeves, and that helps me become a better driver, every rally I’m having to learn and adapt.”
 
The future though looks unclear for Eli and the Evans Motorsport operation, with Honda withdrawing after the final Round in Victoria.
 
“I want to stay in the ARC, it’s definitely the aim of Evans Motorsport to attract another manufacturer into the sport, although who and in what we haven’t even thought about that yet, we wanted to get Rally Australia out of the way first.”
 
“The aim between now and Rally Victoria though is to see what manufacturer interest their might be out there, and to show a potential manufacturer what rallying can offer them.”
 
It would be a crying shame if the current Australian Rally Champion was left high and dry next season without a drive, and if history proves anything it has not only happened before but also happened to another Evans, Eli’s older brother Simon.
 
“We saw with Simon a few years ago when Toyota pulled out after one Round that being stuck sitting at home is always a possibility, at least with Honda deciding to bow out at the end of the year I’ve had the opportunity to thank them properly for their support by winning another title,” Eli said.
 
“When I look back I’ve had a dream run with Honda and in a lot of ways I’ve been spoilt by my involvement with them. It’s fantastic to have been part of such a great brand, everyone throughout their business is very passionate about motorsport and I hope we (Evans Motorsport) can attract another manufacturer who feels the same way.”

Photo: Peter Whitten

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