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Twice Australian Rally Champion, Simon Evans, driving the Simons Builders Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9, has won Heat 1 of the Rally of Canberra by 40.8 seconds in dustbowl conditions.

Early in the day Evans was almost a minute ahead of local champion Neal Bates in a Super 2000 Corolla, his first on the road position a real advantage to the Victorian.

The expected challenge from his brother, Eli Evans, evaporated in the second stage this morning when at maximum velocity, he misunderstood a note on a high speed crest and ran off the road sideways.

“We were in top gear, flat out. I got the crests mixed up somehow and just over the crest the road went left. I changed back a gear and turned the car in and I thought we had saved it, but we just dug in on the bull dust at the edge of the road and over we went.”

The car is a write off. Team principal, Peter Evans, is non committal at this stage as to whether Eli Evans will be in the third round of the ARC in a month.

“We have a spare car and it will be readied, but there are factors which will determine if we go or not,” Peter Evans said.

Whilst Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, drove past the finish control at Fearnside, just out of Queanbeyan on his way to open the new joint Defence Force HQ, the other local Canberra identity, Neal Bates, driving the new look S2000 Corolla, was having a somewhat more tense time!

“The dust on that first stage was so bad that I stopped twice, thinking that I had caught Eli Evans. I hadn’t - it was just so thick I couldn’t see.” 

Most crews complained about the dust and the organisers stepped in and changed the gap between cars to three minutes.

Due to cattle problems, the last stage was modified to accommodate the problem, resulting in a third run over the two Kowen stages. Several parts of the stages cut up badly as a result.

Nathan Quinn, driving the Allied Air-conditioning Evo 6, had a mixed run of fortune, ending up with a blown engine on the side of the road. Team Manager, Martin Quinn, believed a dose of sub-standard fuel was the culprit, holing a piston. Quinn and his team will work all night to rebuild the engine.

Glen Raymond, in the Raymond Partners Toyota Corolla, had a blown waste gate pipe prior to the last stage. They fixed it, despite the intense heat, and completed the stage, holding off a challenge for third place by Justin Dowel.

Stephen Shepheard, in the new Lancer Evo 10, suffered along with many others with a flat tyre on the first stage costing him three minutes. His day ended on stage six with brake problems.

The Activ RallySport Evo 9 of Justin Dowel struggled with dust like the others, but held off North Coast driver, Michael Boaden, with sister Helen Cheers, in the Boaden motors Lancer Evo for fourth place.

Boaden is a former NSW Rally Champion and has moved up a gear by competing at ARC level, his reward being fifth place. That result comes on the back of his podium finish in the final round at Coffs Harbour last year.

It’s not all about the front guys, with one of the youngest drivers, Cameron Sluce, in a battle with one of the oldest drivers, John Berne, both in similar Subaru Impreza RS’s.

Berne commented earlier: “I have not done anything to my engine for six years, apart from putting oil in it.” Sluce backed up his comments by saying: “Look, I am only a young guy, but with this car I can afford to go top level rallying.” He beat the veteran driver by 1 minute 33 seconds.

Cars completed the stages and were then serviced in readiness for Heat 2 tomorrow, to be held in the Greenhills forest area, with spectators catered for at the famous Castrol corner.

Heat 1 Results

1.    Simon Evans / Sue Evans, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 54m23.0s
2.    Neal Bates / Coral Taylor, Toyota Corolla S2000, +40.6s
3.    Glen Raymond / Matt Raymond, Toyota Corolla Sportivo, +1m56.9s
4.    Justin Dowel / Matt Lee, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +2m09.3s
5.    Michael Boaden / Helen Cheers, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII, +3m08.6s
6.    Brett Kipling / Darren Masters, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +4m01.8s Photo: Joel Strickland

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