Reigning Australian Rally Champion Simon Evans endured a trying day in the forests surrounding Busselton in Western Australia, eventually finishing Heat 1 in second place.

Evans and his co-driver wife Sue began the QUIT Forest Rally in style, leading after Friday night’s two tarmac Busselton Toyota Super Special Stages on the waterfront in the heart of Busselton by 0.4s.

Crews headed east to Nannup for the beginning of the forest stages on Saturday morning, where Evans made a strategic call to run one set of the hard compound Kumho control tyres all day on his Subaru Impreza WRX.

“I was hoping the roads would be swept this afternoon, and the weather was supposed to get warmer as well” said Evans at the end of Heat 1.

“The plan was to run the hard tyres all day – we were going to cop some heat this morning, but the tyres were going to pay us back when we got to the grippier roads and warmer weather in the afternoon.

“Unfortunately that plan did not work out like we planned.”

Cool weather and only two repeat stages in the afternoon meant that Evans’s payoff did not eventuate, as his key championship rival Scott Pedder held onto the lead he built in the morning on the grippier medium compound control tyre.

By the end of the first heat’s seventh stage, Pedder had built a lead of 21.4s over Evans.

As suspected Evans made ground on Pedder in the afternoon’s three stages, however the conditions prevented him from making sufficient ground early enough, only picking up 1.3s over the heat’s remaining stages to finish 20.1s behind the lead car.

“The car was running really well all day,” said Evans.

“Unfortunately, we took a punt on tyre strategy and it didn’t quite work out. We probably should have swapped to the softer tyres, but I was being a bit stubborn.

“The good news is that, by staying on the same set of hard tyres all day we will have 11 tyres to play with in Heat 2 – which means we can run fresh medium compound tyres all day.

“On top of that, we ran a very aggressive suspension set-up to try and make the tyres work today, so we will soften our set-up for Heat 2.”

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