ARC: A look back at R1 – Quit Forest Rally

Molly Taylor - Renault by Stuart Bowes
Molly Taylor – Renault by Stuart Bowes

Former Australian Rally Champions Eli Evans and Glen Weston have won the Quit Forest Rally, the opening round of the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship (ARC), in Western Australia today.

Heat 1

Neil Bates by Stuart Bowes
Neil Bates by Stuart Bowes

Molly Taylor has re-written the Australian Rally Championship record books by becoming the first female Heat winner in the sports history in a day that saw competitors bloodied and bruised from the very outset, with the notorious West Australian gravel playing a large part in driver’s fortunes.

The drivers lined up for the first stage and immediately there were problems for overnight leader Simon Evans, a problematic driveshaft forcing him back into service and resulting in a 45-second penalty.

“We changed the dampers for the gravel and one of the drive shafts didn’t engage properly, but I didn’t realise until I was pulling out of service. So I turned around, came back in and we got some time penalties,” explained Simon.

Eager to catch up time Evans powered through the first stage to set the fastest time by 2.5 seconds over Molly and younger brother Eli. With the time penalty Simon had dropped back to seventh outright, handing the lead to a surprised Adrian Coppin.

It was to be a short lived moment of glory for Coppin, who under steered on a slow corner midway through the second stage of the day, Ferndale, a beaching his Citroen DS3 off the road.

“I just came too fast into the corner,” rued Adrian. “It’s frustrating after such a great start last night!”

With Coppin dropping significant time, the lead was handed to former Citroen cohort Tony Sullens. Further down the field the Ferndale stage was proving problematic, especially one off-camber corner just after the start.

First Eli Evans ran wide and found his Citroen airborne in a deep ditch before limping back out and through the stage, losing almost 33 seconds. Then brother Simon had a narrow escape at the same corner, power sliding down the length of the ditch but managing to escape unscathed.

Justin Dowel in his 4WD Mitsubishi had a similarly close run, before local Subaru driver John O’Dowd came off the hardest hit when he shunted heavily into the bank beyond the ditch and breaking the steering on his Impreza.

In the 4WD’s Justin Dowel was on the back foot, a turbo problem gradually getting worse and worse as the morning went on. “It started last night. We started loosing boost and then developed a really big exhaust manifold leak,” he said.

With Dowel out for the morning to effect repairs and Mark Pedder struggling in his Super 2000 Polo a tight tussle had developed between local aces Dylan King and Doug Tostevin, with Doug holding the advantage by 7.5 seconds.

“I can’t put my finger on what’s working so well, I think we just have the car really well sorted and a great team behind me. Basically I’m just doing what I love doing,” smiled Doug.

In the National 4WD’s Dylan King managed to cruise to a comfortable victory after his archrival for the day, Doug Tostevin, rolled his Subaru on the same corner that had caught out Simon, Eli, Dowel and O’Dowd earlier in the day.

“I had a great run,” smiled King. “Doug was flying, so it’s unfortunate that he rolled, a real shame for him but good for us. Even though we got today’s win we have a couple of concerns right now though, the engine is breathing a bit of smoke so we have to see if we can fix whatever’s going wrong.”

A completely trouble free day saw Neal Bates power slide to victory in the Classics, almost six minutes clear of the identical Toyota Celica of Clay Badenoch. “The biggest problem I had today was accidently switching the ignition off on a hairpin today. It took fifteen seconds for me to work out why it wouldn’t start up again,” said Bates.

Heat 2



Eli Evans by Stuart Bowes
Eli Evans by Stuart Bowes

Eli Evans consistent performance on his debut weekend in the Citroen DS3 has rewarded him with victory at the 2015 Quit Forest Rally.

“It was good today, much better than yesterday, no issues at all,” said Eli at the finish in Nannup. “It’s a big relief to get this result and the car never let me down. The longer I drove it this weekend the more and more comfortable I felt, and that resulted in more speed.”

The result is remarkable in itself after Eli was slowed yesterday morning after running heavily off the road on only the second forestry stage, and then driving for five kilometres with a flat tyre on the very next stage.

“This is a tough sport and I think our fortunes yesterday compared to today prove that you can never give up. You can be up one minute and down the very next,” said Eli’s co-driver Glen Weston.

The win, which came on Eli’s very first weekend driving for Team Citroen Australia, was a hard fought affair after almost zero testing prior to the start of the event on Friday.

“It’s a very special feeling to win for a new team, it feels just like when I took my first win for Honda. The team have worked incredibly hard in the pre-season, and again this weekend, so it’s a huge relief to be in the fight and take the win. I’m so proud of the work Glen (Weston) and I did this weekend,” added Eli.

All content by ECB ARC Media & photography by Stuart Bowes/ARC