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Two-time Australian champion Simon Evans staged a blistering performance to beat a top-class international field on day one of Red Devil Rally Queensland today.

Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer with his wife Sue as co-driver, Evans finished first of 13 contesting round two of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and also scored maximum points for round four of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC), run concurrently.

Evans won every one of seven stages over 144 kilometres in the Imbil State Forest in the Sunshine Coast hinterland to finish 8.8 seconds ahead of defending Asia Pacific champion Cody Crocker, who was making the season debut for the Singapore Motor Image team.

Japanese veteran Katsu Taguchi, driving a Mitsubishi for the MRF Tyres team from India, came third.

Brendan Reeves, in a Subaru, finished the day last in the APRC classification but first in the chase for Pirelli Star Driver qualifying. Two of four drivers aged under 26 contesting this weekend’s event will win spots in an Asia Pacific regional shootout for fully-supported drives in next year’s World Rally Championship – an ultimate prize estimated to be worth around $1 million.

Victorian Glen Raymond finished second behind Evans in the ARC section and ahead of defending champion and current points leader Neal Bates. Both are driving Toyota Corollas.

Warm weather and a total field of more than 70 cars produced fast roads today, catching out some drivers who had judged their pace according to greasy conditions encountered during reconnaissance early this week.

They included Indian driver Guarav Gill, who ran off the road this morning, and Simon Evans’ brother Eli, who had a 140 kmh spin on the Traverse Down fourth stage.

The younger Evans had a frustrating day in his contest with Reeves for the Pirelli spots.

“I had a couple of spins in the tight stuff. I don’t want to blame the car, but it’s doing funny things,” he said.

“We also lost fifth gear this afternoon. It made a noise since the last service break so I’ve just nursed it to the end.”

 Reeves had a strong finish after dropping 18 minutes this morning with a lost wheel and was happy to come out in front.

“The Pirelli Star Driver is my whole focus this weekend and I’m really pleased I managed to pull Eli back in in the last four stages – it’s one of the most technical rallies in the championship,” he said.

Crocker finished the day with his brand-new Subaru Impreza unscathed and effectively leading in the APRC points chase, as Simon Evans’ one-off APRC appearance does not qualify for points.

His New Zeaand-based teammate Emma Gilmour, the first woman driver in the APRC, was a creditable sixth despite enduring a day-long loss of engine power.

Kiwi champion Haydon Paddon finished just behind, after losing time this morning with a broken differential. Paddon leads the Pacific Cup section of the APRC.

Red Devil Rally Queensland also is hosting a round of the Queensland Rally Championship, in which Matt van Tuinen and co-driver Daniel Wilson finished first today in a Subaru.

The rally continues tomorrow with a repeat of the seven stages before the finish at 3 pm at the Imbil Showgrounds Service Park.

Rally information will be available throughout the weekend on www.rally.com.au and www.sidewaysinthesun.com.au.

RESULTS

APRC (Day One)

1 Evans(Aust)/Evans (Aust) Mitsubishi Lancer 1:10.55.2
2 Crocker (Aust)/Atkinson (Aust) Subaru Impreza 1:11.34.0
3 Taguchi (Japan)/Stacey (Aust) Mitsubishi Lancer 1:12.18.9
4 Evans (Aust)/Murphy (Aust) Subaru Impreza
5 Gill (India)/Macneall (Australia) Mitsubishi Lancer

Pirelli Star Driver (Day One)

Reeves (Aust)/Weston (Aust) Subaru Impreza

Pacific Cup (Day One)

Paddon (NZ)/Kennard (NZ) 1:18.11.9

ARC (Heat One)

1 Evans/Evans Mitsubishi Lancer 1:10.55.2
2 Raymond/Raymond Toyota Corolla 1:12.06.9
3 Bates/Taylor Toyota Corolla 1:12.15.0

QRC (Day One)

Van TuinenWilson Subaru Impreza 1:16.26.6
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