TRD's Simon Evans has become the first driver in Australian Rally Championship Super Series history to win every heat in a season following his victory in Heat 2 of the season-ending NGK Rally of Melbourne.
Evans took a hard-fought win over Ford's Michael Guest to secure victory in the final heat of 2007 by just 11 seconds.
The now two-time ARC champion claimed his second title with victory in Saturday's Heat 1, before maintaining focus throughout the day's eight stages to take an historic clean-sweep of all 12 heats in the 2007 season.
Evans and his co-driver wife Sue were equally pleased they achieved their history-making moment at their home event in front of a large contingent of family and friends.
"It feels pretty special to be the first driver to clean-sweep a season," said an emotional Evans. "I put a lot of pressure on myself and to get to the end of it... I have really started to appreciate what we have done.
"I am starting to realise it now and it is really surreal. When you work hard the rewards come. I haven't really thought about what we have done during the last two years, but looking back on it now I just think 'Wow'.
"This victory really rams home what Sue and I and the team have achieved. Our will and desire to win was so great this year. I didn't plan to win every heat of every event, but we have and we've won the championship in style. It has been great fun and Sue and I have had an absolute ball.
"Today was tough. Guesty (Michal Guest) came out hard and we really had to work for it all day. I was really nervous at the start of the final stage because I knew we pretty much had it all wrapped up. But it all went well and we now can switch our focus to next year and an exciting new challenge with the S2000 Corolla."
The duo was honoured after the final stage at the Healesville Sportsground with a lap of honour, where Simon took the liberty of performing a series of crowd-pleasing doughnuts.
Team-mates Neal Bates and Coral Taylor finished Heat 2 in fourth place and, despite being disappointed with their Sunday performance, they did enough during Heat 1 to claim third overall for the rally.
Bates struggled for grip in his S2000 Corolla throughout the second heat, finishing more than one minute behind Evans.
However, the three-time champion was pleased with the 100 per cent reliability of the S2000 Corolla in its development year, something that assisted him in securing second in the drivers' title to lock in a TRD 1-2.
"It was a very tough rally," said Bates. "We ended up third overall so we can't complain.
"It was incredibly slippery but the car has been unbelievably reliable and it is pretty remarkable that both our cars have finished every heat for the last two years - it is a real credit to Toyota, the entire crew, drivers and co-drivers. It is amazing that we have had such a great run and it is very satisfying.
"We have the best drivers in the championship and we understand what it takes to win. We will have a very busy off-season improving the S2000 and Simon and Sue will have a lot of work to do to get used to it and adjust it to suit them. It has been incredibly strong and very reliable, but we are working on its weaker points to make it faster.
"Simon and Sue have done the most unbelievably fantastic job. They have been perfect - they're on top of their game and are the best crew in Australian rallying at the moment by a considerable margin."
Privateer Stewart Reid made his first appearance of the year in his ex-TRD Group N (P) Corolla and finished sixth in Heat 2 in what was a trial run for a full assault on the 2008 ARC championship.
The NGK Rally of Melbourne was the last event for the Group N (P) Corolla, with Evans set to switch to an S2000-spec Corolla for the 2008 season that kicks off in Queensland in early March.
NEC Australian Rally Championship
NGK Rally of Melbourne
|Simon Evans, Toyota Corolla Group N (P) Corolla |
|Spencer Lowndes, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO |
|Neal Bates, Toyota Corolla S2000 |
|Michael Guest, Ford Fiesta S2000 |
|Brett Kipling, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO |
|David Hills , Mitsubishi Lancer |
NEC Australian Rally Championship
Final overall standings:
|Simon Evans, Toyota Corolla Group N (P) - 524.5 points|
|Neal Bates, Toyota Corolla S2000 - 368 |
|Dean Herridge, Subaru Impreza WRX - 264 |
|Michael Guest, Ford Fiesta S2000 - 228 |
|Spencer Lowndes, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO - 228|
|Brendan Reeves, Subaru Impreza WRX - 182|
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