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Gravel rally star Eli Evans has signed up for his first tarmac event, as part of his long-term goal to join the world rally championship.

Evans, 22, from Pakenham on Melbourne's south-eastern outskirts, will line up for a start at the Mt Buller Sprint, pitting himself against more established motorsport names such as dual winner Jim Richards and fellow touring car legend, Peter Brock.

The young electrician is currently competing in the 2006 Asia-Pacific Really Championship series in a Subaru under the banner of Les Walkden Rallying, but has made no secret of his long-term ambition to reach the world series and for that, tarmac experience is a must.

"You need to be able to handle competing on tarmac as well as gravel if you want to be an accomplished rally driver," Evans says.

"There are tarmac rallies as part of the world championship, and there are strong suggestions the Australian championship will go the same way, so I figure having some tarmac experience will expand my opportunities as a professional driver."

Evans has just gained his circuit racing licence and plans to contest some track events, but the Mt Buller Sprint - eight timed runs up the 16km Mt Buller tourist road - will be his first competition outing on a non-gravel surface.

"I'm not making any wild predictions," says Evans, who is the winner of the
2005 Subaru RS Challenge category of the Australian Rally Championship and the younger brother of Toyota rally ace, Simon Evans.

"The aim is to be neat and clean and, as Simon would say, keep it on the island! I think I will just get the first run under my belt and see how things go, whether I can go quicker or if I should slow down!

"I know it's a great road to drive but given it's my first time in this sort of event and I've never raced against any of the other competitors, I don't really know what to expect. I'm looking forward to trying it."

Evans will contest the Mt Buller Sprint in a 2005 asphalt-spec Subaru Impreza STi that he is building with father Peter, under the name 'Evans Motorsport'.

It's all part of working towards a goal that includes the hope of winning the world championship. He is totally focussed on his rally career and pays some of the bills along the way by working in the family building business in Melbourne.

After Mt Buller Evans has one final round (China) of the seven-round Asia Pacific series to contest (competitors nominate six of the seven events) and is yet to finalise what he will be doing in 2007.

"I would love to think I can continue working with Les [Walkden] and the team, because I enjoy working with them. Les has been involved in rallying for a long time and shares the passion.

"I would also like to maintain my connections with Subaru. Hopefully, if I can succeed on tarmac, given their move into more tarmac events, I will have some more opportunities with them."

Photo by Joel Strickland

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