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At the end of a difficult weekend at Rally Victoria, the final Round of the 2013 East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship, Eli Evans and Honda have tasted champagne as their relationship comes to an end after four years of success.
In addition Evans’ win this weekend extends his unbeaten run in the Championship to twelve consecutive Round victories and means he hasn’t been beaten to the top step of the podium over the past two seasons.
“I’m speechless!” exclaimed Eli as he made his way to the podium. “I’m very proud of everything today, everything this weekend and everything this year. I’m so thankful to the Evans Motorsport team and Honda Australia.”
“Twelve wins in a row now, so hopefully we can get something together for next year and come out to try to extend that to thirteen,” Eli added.
For co-driver Glen Weston it’s the highlight of a four-year relationship alongside Evans. “It’s such a pleasure to sit next to Eli, and I’m so proud of the last four year with him and the team, and incredible to get through the last two years unbeaten.”
Brendan Reeves, who had new co-driver Glenn Macneall alongside in the rallyschool.com.au Mazda2, pressured Evans all weekend. Reeves was within striking distance heading into this afternoon’s closing forest stages but struck a rear puncture with 8km of the Limberlost stage to run.
“Disappointing to get the flat, but overall a really great weekend for the team. The Mazda has been great from the very start and it’s nice to have a consistent end to the year and finish the season on a high,” Reeves said.
Third place for the day went down to the absolute wire with Glen Raymond holding the smallest of leads heading into the final 2.3km Lardner Park stage over Renault’s Tom Wilde.
While Raymond started the stage with a 0.6 second lead he would be out gunned by the front-wheel drive Renault of Wilde who leapt ahead and finished the Heat in third 4.8 seconds up.
“It’s been touch and go all day,” explained Wilde who was stunned to get ahead of Raymond to take the final step on the podium.
“We’ve been losing power all weekend, but it’s been particularly bad today. We thought it was electrical, the team haven’t been able to find the problem, and all day today the car has been going through oil, so we’ve got a big problem there somewhere.”
“Incredible to make it to the end, we’ve been driving cautiously and that’s not the way to drive these cars. Huge thanks to the Race Torque team for this year, we’ve made it to the end with no DNF’s at all,” continued Tom.
The result this weekend pushes Wilde ahead of his Renault team mate Scott Pedder to claim second outright in the Championship behind Eli Evans.
“If I’d been told at the start of the year that I’d finish second in a new car I wouldn’t have believed them. I want to thank Scott Pedder and Pedders Suspension as well as my sponsor Verandah Apartments for all their support, I couldn’t have done it without them,” added Wilde.
Raymond might have slipped back to fourth but he can take consolation in securing the rallyschool.com.au Australian Junior Championship, his primary aim for the weekend.
Mick Patton brought his VW Polo home in fifth ahead of the unique front-wheel drive converted Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 of Henry Nott.
Massive disappointment for both Pedder brothers, with Mark Pedder stopping his Honda with a broken throttle cable, while for the second day running Scott Pedder found himself stranded on the roadside.
“Yesterday we had a loose steering column, and while I was distracted checking the bolts were going to hold, I looked down, lost my concentration, slid wide on some really slippery clay and slid the car off the stage. The off broke the lower control arm,” Scott explained.
“Today almost the very same thing, I was just on the wrong part of the road, clipped a rock that was embedded in the edge of the road and broke the brand new control arm we fitted last night!”
“Am I disappointed? Not really. I’m an attacking driver, unfortunately I’ve probably had more bad luck this year than others, but I’d prefer to go all out than go slowly for a third or fourth,” Scott concluded.
In the 4WD National series John Mitchell continued his fine form to claim the day ahead of a hard-charging Ritchie Dalton, the Irishman securing enough points against his primary challengers Mike Bailey and Mick Harding to take second in the points.
The Classics produced some of the best action of the weekend with ARC returnee Ben Barker providing plenty of spectacular sideways action in his BMW 320is, until his gearbox expired, allowing Neal Bates to comfortably lead home the field.
After his off road headache yesterday Bates was unable to secure enough points to take the win for the weekend, which went the way of local Ford Escort ace Grant Walker, who managed to get cleanly through the entire weekend until he smashed the front fender on a hay bale on the final stage.
“The champagne will help me forget about the damage!” laughed Walker. “The weather yesterday wasn’t good but we stayed in it and we got there in the end. All the guys in the Classics say we’re in it for the fun but once it starts it’s all on.”
And finally in the Side-by-Side Challenge after disappointment yesterday Michael Guest blasted out of the blocks to show archrival Cody Crocker a clean pair of heels. “It was great to smoke them all today, we pushed really hard to make up for yesterday,” Michael said.
“Yesterday a brake fitting came loose, we dropped all the fluid, and we were driving the last couple of stages with no brakes. Into a hairpin it just tripped over and rolled onto it’s roof. No damage, just a disappointing, because we had the pace,” Guest added.
Iain Hughes was the star of the weekend in the SxS series though, claiming stage wins ahead of both Crocker and Guest. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done this weekend. I’m not sure if the mud yesterday slowed them (Guest and Crocker) down or sped us up. I’m very excited for next year!”
That marks the end of the 2013 season with drivers and teams no focusing their efforts on next year and the opening Round of the 2014 East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship at the National Capital Rally in Canberra on the weekend of 28th February to 2nd March.
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