Hella Rally Team fights to 4th in Rally of Queensland June 18, 2003 - The Hella Rally Team fought against incredible odds to finish 4th overall in last weekend's Rally of Queensland, Round 5 of the Australian Rally Championship. The husband...
Hella Rally Team fights to 4th in Rally of Queensland
June 18, 2003 - The Hella Rally Team fought against incredible odds to finish 4th overall in last weekend's Rally of Queensland, Round 5 of the Australian Rally Championship.
The husband and wife driving team of Simon and Sue Evans along with their ten person crew, had to draw on every ounce of patience and professionalism to ensure that the Hella Subaru WRX remained in this highly competitive forest race, despite no fewer than three separate gearbox related failures and a blown clutch with only 3 kilometres remaning to the finish.
The Evans duo's week started strongly with more than 200 kilometres of faultless testing completed on the Wednesday in the sunshine state, giving the Hella Rally Team a strong set up for the rally. On the Friday shakedown, Simon Evans noticed a knock in the gearbox and his crew removed it for inspection. A chipped first gear tooth was the culprit and new gearbox parts had to be flown in from Melbourne.
To ensure the team started the rally, they were forced to use their spare gearbox, an older unit they have used extensively for testing, with their hopes on it being able to get them through the first day's stages. Initially, all progressed well, the Hella Rally Team leading from the start until stage 4 when the gearbox jammed in 4th gear. Evans continued for one stage and a half before reaching the first service stop, losing 13 seconds to the leaders in the process.
The service stop dramatically displayed the talent of the Hella Rally Team crew who managed to remove and replace the gearbox within the 20 minutes allowed and without incurring any penalties. With a loud cheer from the crowd, Simon and Sue were back on track to make up their lost ground.
In his usual aggressive and super-fast style, Simon set the fastest time of the next stage (stage 6) and had progressed to within five seconds of the leader. On stage 7 he experienced a gearshift linkage problem that caused the gearbox to jam in 3rd gear. The Evans duo limped to the next service area and lost one minute to the leaders in the process. The problem was repaired and the Hella Rally team went back into battle once again, just five seconds ahead of 4th placed Subaru rival Dean Herridge.
The Hella Hillclimb Stages were next, one of the few night stages of the Australian Rally Championship, enabling the Hella Rally Team to display their race-proven Hella lighting that shined the way brightly for Simon and Sue to set the fastest Subaru time of the stages on both occasions.
By Sunday's first stage the team was confident that they could make up lost time and still fight for a podium finish. For the third time in this Rally another gearbox problem took hold, this time the plastic gearstick linkage gave way, which once again left Evans with only third gear. The limited ability to change gears when the gearstick would remain in place was used, but the gearstick constantly popped out throughout the remaining three stages until the next service stop. Despite this major problem Simon had still managed to set the fastest time of the entire field during the third Sunday stage!
The Hella Rally Team crew once again repaired the problem and sent Simon and Sue Evans out to set the fastest time of the next stage, which was a staggering 12 seconds faster than Subaru factory team driver Cody Crocker. After 56 kilometres of competitive stages, Simon had cut down the gap to the leaders to 44 seconds, despite all of the problems his team encountered.
It then became a matter of continuing to make up lost ground from this point, Simon and Sue Evans still endeavouring to take a podium finish in this event.
The Hella Rally Team was ranked 5th by the second last stage of the rally and were 9 seconds up on the leader's time through the stage when a drive shaft broke on a tight harpin corner. This transformed their Subaru WRX to a not so dynamic three wheel drive. Still racing to make it to the finish and with only 4 kilometres left to go, the clutch blew, losing all drive and after rolling to within 3 kilometres of the finish, that was the end of their 2003 Rally of Queensland campaign.
Despite the problems and set backs, the weekend proved just how fast and competitive the Hella Rally Team has become in 2003. Their fourth place finish overall was a testament to the competitive spirit of the team's hard working crew, coupled with the determination of Simon and Sue Evans.
Their brave efforts ensured that the Hella Rally Team retains second position in the 2003 Australian Rally Championship standings with four rounds remaining.
Simon Evans - "This rally was an extremely challenging experience, but also a very rewarding one. It displayed the true spirit of the team - our close teamwork and the crew's ability to fix anything, anytime and get us back out again in competitive form. The crew really performed miracles during the weekend. I am very excited for the rounds and events ahead as we have excellent speed, we just need more reliability."
The Hella Rally Team next takes to the roads and forests in the Harbour Rally, the third round of the Championship being held in and around Sydney from July 4 - 6.