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Simon and Sue Evans have clinched their second Australian Rally Championship title after winning Heat 1 of the NGK Rally of Melbourne in Victoria’s Yarra Valley.

The Toyota mounted pair have now won every Heat of this year’s championship, and outlasted their rivals in a day of drama.

Their winning margin was more than a minute from the privateer Lancer Evo 9 of Spencer Lowndes and Chris Randell, while the Super 2000 Toyota of Neal Bates and Coral Taylor was third.

Fourth went to South Australian Brett Kipling in a Lancer Evo 5 – clearly the best result of his career. He finished more than 30 seconds clear of Ford’s Michael Guest, who recovered from multiple punctures and a holed sump in his Super 2000 Fiesta.

David Hills was sixth in his Lancer, followed by Tasmanian Craig Brooks in a Subaru.

It was a day of retirements. Darren Windus led after the first stage, but his Ford blew an engine soon after. Young gun Brendan Reeves was fourth after three stages, but promptly rolled his Impreza out of the event. His car is badly damaged and he won’t restart in Heat 2.

Victorian Brenton Kaitler was inside the top five in his Lancer Evo 6 before going off the road and hitting a tree, while Glen Raymond’s day was hampered by mechanical problems, and hitting a wallaby at more than 150km/h.

The Rally of Melbourne continues tomorrow.

Photo: John Doutch

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