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With the release last week of the entry list for the upcoming Quit Forest Rally came news that reigning Champion Eli Evans will bypass the trip to Western Australia to focus his efforts on preparing for his European debut at the Estonia Rally.

Evans had been expected to debut his returning Honda Civic, a car he last campaigned during the 2011 season, after a disappointing run at the season opening National Capital Rally in a rented VW Polo.
 
“It’s incredibly disappointing to miss the Round in WA, it’ll be the first rally I’ve not contested for a number of years, and that’s always hard to accept as a driver,” said Eli.
 
“We had to make two very important decisions; the first was about the development of the Civic and the second was staying focused on our preparations for Estonia.”
 
Evans said the team were on course to finish the development of the Civic, including the building of their own engine, in time to make the Quit Forest Rally but felt uncomfortable that a lack of testing could prove a very expensive trip to the other side of the country for the Melbourne based team.
 
“I’m looking at the positives though, the opportunity to race in Europe is incredible and my success in the Australian Rally Championship has paved a path for me to compete in Estonia. I’ll be able to race against some of the best two-wheel drive competitors in Europe, and that’ll give me an amazing chance to compare how competitive we are in Australia,” Eli explained.
 
With just three points from Canberra, and none for missing WA, Eli’s chances of securing three Australian Rally Championships in a row appear unlikely. “For sure it’s disappointing to effectively end our title hunt, but this is an opportunity to enter possibly the next phase of my rally career and that was a chance too good to refuse.”
 
“The ARC has played a massive part in this opportunity, both with my relationship with Honda and of course the J.A.S Motorsport team as well. Without their support, and everyone else in the sport who has helped me over the years, an opportunity like this to compete in Europe would never have come up,” Evans added.
 
Eli and the Evans Motorsport team will look to use the added time between now and the third Round of the ECB ARC, the International Rally of Queensland, to further refine the Honda Civic which Eli said may include entering a couple Victorian State Championship Rounds.
 
“Queensland is going to fall just before we head over to Estonia, so it’ll be a great chance to get some time in the car. The team want everything with the car to be perfect, to give me as much time in the driving seat at full pace as possible,” said Eli.
 
“I know the speed Brendan (Reeves) and Scott (Pedder) are driving at is world class, so if I can have a good run in Queensland and be up with them then I know I’m in good form heading to Estonia.”
 
East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship Chairman Ben Rainsford was quick to throw his support behind Eli and the opportunity for him to show the world the caliber and quality of our local drivers.
 
“One of the cornerstones of any domestic competition is to provide a platform for competitors to take the next step in their career overseas,” commented Rainsford. “For the ARC this has certainly been a long term aim and has resulted in great names such as Neal Bates, Ed Ordynski, Ross Dunkerton and most recently Chris Atkinson and Cody Crocker using the ARC as a stepping stone for international rally success.”

“On behalf of the ARC and the entire Australian rallying community we congratulate Eli and Glen (Weston) and their team and supporters for this opportunity and whilst on one hand we know that our domestic series suffers when we lose competitors of this calibre, on the other hand we all should be extremely proud of what the ARC and our other rallying development series and programs has been able to achieve in assisting these competitors reach the international stage.”

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