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Massive gallery and rundown from Australian Rally at IROQ

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Eli Evans and Glen Western were brutally fast the outright ARC class, taking the overall win and a easy heat 1 win. They were 11 seconds off a perfect weekend.

Eli Evans has taken the points lead in the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship after a dominant weekend at the International Rally of Queensland.

By the finish ramp Eli had produced a margin of almost seven minutes over second placed Adrian Coppin, who himself had a more than two minute gap to third placed Molly Taylor.

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Mark Pedder took the 4WD win in his new Peugeot 208 Maxi

The day started with the 22.38km Speedie Contractors North stage and dramas once again for Tony Sullens. The Citroen driver had set a strong split time for the first half of the stage, before once again falling victim to the same water splash that ruined his day yesterday.

“I got to the water again and it conked out!” Sullens exclaimed. Unlike yesterday he was able to get going again.

Eli was quick out of the blocks, but being chased hard by brother Simon who had failed to finish yesterday’s opening Leg. The pair traded times over the opening two stages to be split by just 2.2 seconds.

The second stage was to spell the end of Harry Bates, who once again found the limits of the driveshafts in his Toyota Corolla.
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Harry Bates had a challenging weekend with the Toyota

Further down the order drivers appeared to be holding station, the gaps either ahead or behind them too big to overcome short of someone hitting trouble. Molly Taylor summed it up by saying: “Currently we’re in third for the event and if we make no mistakes that’s where we’ll finish.”

After his water splash cut out Sullens was back up to speed on the New Million stage, but was to once again hit trouble on the very next test. “We got six corners in and I knew almost straight away we had a right front puncture,” Tony explained.

“In the end it was the right rear, but for a while I thought I had two punctures so I actually drove very conservatively thinking I only had the one spare and a long stage still to get through!”

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Tony Sullens had a lot of issues with the Citroen over the weekend

Reports began to filter through that Simon Evans was having gearshift problems, then he smashed out a fastest time on the final stage before lunch to go ahead in the intra-Evans battle.

“Just a beautiful run!” smiled Simon at the stage finish. “I didn’t put a wheel wrong. Fast and neat, it just felt smooth.”

“That’s the Simon I expect,” was Eli Evans simple response when he heard the time.

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Simon Evans would take out Heat 2. He was eliminated from Heat 1 with a car issue

In the 4WD battle Mick Patton was in trouble, his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X’s gearbox once again proving troublesome. “We’ll get the car into service and see what the issues are. If we can get then sorted and we’re confident the car will make it then we’ll push, if not we’ll probably around and get to the end of the day.”

Patton’s concerns should have played into the hands of Mark Pedder, but he too was struggling. “We had a clean run through Million and Woodlands, then on Kandanga we had no handbrake, then lost the rear brakes, then had an overshoot and then had no clutch – all in twelve kilometres!”

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It was a gutting late exit from the 4WD lead for the Repco team

That allowed Kent Lawrence to grab a lead of 24.2 seconds heading into service, despite the fact that he’d suffered punctures during the morning.

In service Simon Evans crew were quickly replacing the rear suspension in his Honda Jazz. “On the big bumps the car wants to rear steer,” Simon said. “We’re pushing pretty hard in the fast and flowing, and the rear is just too soft and it’s hitting the bump stops, so we’re changing it for stiffer suspension.”

With four stages making up the afternoon the action unfolded relatively smoothly for the top runners, with Eli and Simon continuing to swap stage times, and Sullens running wide and requiring the assistance of spectators to get him going again.

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Badenoch won the Classics class in his Toyota

By the finish Eli Evans had stayed out of trouble and took a spectacular win. “Three rallies and three most stage wins, we’ll take that!” he beamed on the podium.

“The DS3 ran faultlessly again and we had a great weekend. I threw trees at it, had it up on two wheels, went through water splashes. I’m just happy I’m able to give Citroen the results they were after,” Eli continued.

In the Championship points race Eli’s result this weekend has seen him leap from Molly and open a slender 8-point buffer. “Molly’s doing a great job but I think I’ve got her measure now. The pressure is on her now to see if she can maintain the speed,” said Eli.
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Molly Taylor lost the Championship lead after repeated issues with the Renault but she still battled to third overall

After battling flu yesterday and admitting he was lacking confidence in himself over the fast stage, Adrian Coppin was thrilled to bring his Citroen home in second. “Tough weekend for everyone but we kept our noses clean. It’s been a tough start to the year for us but it’s all starting to come together and we’re really looking forward to Rally Australia.”

While the winner of the last Round in Canberra, Molly Taylor, had to settle for third after problems plagued her progress throughout the weekend. “We said driving back in here from the last stage just super lucky to be here in third. It really was an endurance weekend for us and that’s what it came down to in the end,” she commented.

“To catch Eli was impossible, so we had to do the second best and that was to salvage as many points as possible. Now we’ve got some work to do and we really need to fight when it comes to Coffs.”

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Adrian Coppin fought back from a cold to score valuable points
In the 4WD battle on the first stage after service Kent Lawrence ended his day amongst the trees after misjudging his speed over a jump, that elevated Mark Pedder back into the lead with Mick Patton feeling like the end was near for his gearbox. On the very next stage it was to prove correct, Patton ending his run of wins this season on the roadside.

By the end Pedder claimed the win by over nine minutes from Gerald Schofield, Patton third despite failing to finish the day.

“It’s been such a tough weekend,” exclaimed Pedder. “So to get here and get the win feels great. I don’t think we had a single clean stage, but I can see the potential in the car and that’s what matters.”

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Tony Quinn’s BMW would not make the flag

In the two-horse race for the Classics, between the BMW of Tony Quinn and the Toyota of Clay Badenoch, it was Clay who came out on top in the end. “It’s been a long, tough event for sure,” he said. “We had such a good battle with Tony, that was really enjoyable.”

And the Side-by-Side battle looked like it was heading the way of Michael Guest, who dominated arch rival Cody Crocker yesterday, only for Guest’s Can-Am to suffer another drive belt failure.

“Guesty’s certainly got the speed this year, but we’ve got the reliability and our Polaris served us well again this weekend,” said an overjoyed Cody at the finish.
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Cody Crocker would take out the Side by Side class

After enduring another frustrating weekend at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta the Kumho Tyres Spirit of the Rally award went to Steve Mackenzie. The plucky young Victorian showed a ‘never say die’ attitude even after being on the back foot from the opening corners of the very first stage.

The East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship enters a mid-season break before ramping up for the biggest event of the year, Rally Australia, our local Round of the World Rally Championship from the 10th to 13th September.

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Photos by Sam Tickell, June 2015

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