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The newest round of the NEC Australian Rally Championship, the Great Lakes Rally, has attracted a bumper field of top-level national title contenders headlined by reigning champion Simon Evans in his Toyota Corolla Sportivo.

Evans heads a list of 28 Australian Championship competitors, a field that will be bolstered significantly when entries close for the hotly contested NSW State Rally Championship round and the Great Lakes Classic Rally, both of which will be run alongside the national title event.

As well as the 28 national title contenders the field will be swelled by NSW state championship competitors as well as Classic rally cars in what is three rallies in one. While NSW and Classic entries do not close until September 8, Great Lakes Rally clerk of course Mike Bell reports the total field is already approaching 60 cars.

Competitors will converge on Forster, on the north coast of NSW from around Australia with four West Australian entries, three South Australians, seven from Victoria, six from Queensland and two from the ACT as well as a swag of New South Welshman from around the state to defend home pride.

Evans, who has a stranglehold on this years title with two rounds remaining, may not have things all his own way with the one man to really push him this year, South Australia’s Steve Glenney making the trip from his home state to contest the new NSW round.

Glenney came within a handful of seconds of beating Evans in South Australia last month but a late spin on the first heat on Saturday and two punctures on day two meant Evans finished on top.

The young South Australian thoroughbred horse breeder has only contested his home state ARC event over the last two seasons and the new Great Lakes Rally will be his first Australian Championship away round since 2005.

“I want to put to rest the stories that I am only fast on my home turf and I can’t think of a better place to prove it than the Great Lakes Rally, it is neutral territory, no one has any real knowledge of the roads because there hasn’t been a round run there in many years,” said Glenney.

“Having said that I am not underestimating the task ahead, Simon is very quick and in great form at the moment as well as being the lead driver in a manufacturer’s team, but in terms of the roads we will be on absolutely equal terms,” Glenney added.

Evans could secure his second Australian title in Forster as long as Glenney doesn’t spoil the party and post an upset victory.

Simon Evans says he has heard great things about the Mid-North Coast forests and the roads that clerk of course Mike Bell has chosen.

“I am told the roads are going to be very fast and it will be a thinking man’s rally, you will need to really have a good plan of attack,” said Evans.

“I think it is going to be a good rally for all the younger guys in the championship like my brother Eli, Brendon Reeves and Steve Glenney and a real good opportunity for them to shine because no one rally knows the roads,” he said.

“Having said that we’ve done rallies this year where there have been lots of new stages my plan will be the same as I attack every other rally flat out from the word go,” Evans added.

Evans’s Toyota Racing Development team leader Neal Bates, driving the new generation S2000 Corolla, is another key rival while Subaru privateer Dean Herridge who is third in the title just ten points behind Bates is always fast and consistent and will be one to watch particularly if the lead Toyota’s falter.

West Australian Herridge was no certainty to start the NSW round as budgetry pressures weighed heavily on his ARC campaign, however a good result in SA and the fact that the new NSW round was on neutral turf persuaded him to make the long haul across the Nullarbor.

The factory backed Pirtek Rally Team Fiesta S2000 cars of local Newcastle hero Michael Guest and exciting West Aussie driver Darren Windus are looking to the Great Lakes Rally to turn fortunes around after a character building rally in SA.

The high revving and spectacular Fords are part of the new wave of S2000 cars and along with Neal Bates’ S2000 Corolla are sure to be crowd pleasers while Guest is sure to have a huge contingent of Novocastrian fans venture up the Pacific Highway to cheer him on.

As well as the established stars the new crop of rally ‘young guns’ may prove to be the wild cards as Simon Evans suggested.

Entries from privateer Subaru drivers Eli Evans and Brendon Reeves as well as former Mitsubishi Ralliart factory driver Spencer Lowndes making a comeback in his privateer Lancer Evo IX.

Another brilliant young talent hoping to sew up the F16 class championship in Forster is 18-year-old debutant Molly Taylor in her rapid front drive 1.6 litre Mitsubishi Mirage.

Currently tenth outright in the Championship the Sydney youngster, whose mother Coral is a three times Australian Champion co-driver with Neal Bates, has tight grip on the F16 title in what is her first year in the NEC Australian Championship.
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