In his return to the national series, Scott Pedder leads the Australian Rally Championship field in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, just 0.3 of a second ahead of Eli Evans in a Honda Civic.

In fine, warm and dry conditions, competitors completed three stages near Burnie late on Friday afternoon on the first of three days of tough competition.

Pedder’s lead in the Australian Championship comes as a surprise to many. Eli Evans’ two-wheel drive Honda Civic led after the first stage, but the four-wheel drive Mitsubishi made its move on stage two to move into a slender lead.

Three-time national champion, Simon Evans, the older brother of Eli Evans, made a steady start in his Subaru and is in third place, less than six seconds from the lead.

Last year’s championship runner-up, Glen Raymond, is fourth on the debut of his Lancer Evo X, with Justin Dowel fifth in another Mitsubishi.

Day two of Rally Tasmania will see competitors tackle another eight special stages totalling 160 kilometres on a run south west of Burnie.

After an 8am start in Burnie, the longest stage of the day is the famous 30 kilometre Savage River test, which is run in both directions. The first car is due back in Burnie at 4pm.

A further eight stages will be held on Sunday, before the winners step on to the podium later that afternoon after three days of tough, tarmac rallying.

Rally Tasmania results (after 2 of 18 stages)

1. Scott Pedder / Jonathon Mortimer, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 12:08.9

2. Eli Evans / Glen Weston, Honda Civic Typre R, +00:00.3

3. Simon Evans / Sue Evans, Subaru Impreza WRX, +00:05.7

4. Glen Raymond / Matt Raymond, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, +00:22.3

5. Justin Dowel / Matt Lee, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +00:28.5

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