West Australian Brad Markovic might be a dark horse in the opening round of the Australian Rally Championship in Ballarat this weekend.
Reigning champion Molly Taylor, three-time champion Eli Evans and emerging Harry Bates are touted as the main contenders in the two-day Eureka Rally.
However, Markovic looms ready to pounce in the 220km event and finishing fifth overall in his first national championship campaign last year.
The result was all the more impressive, given his car was destroyed by fire in the opening round in WA and he took most of the season to get his momentum back.
“We know we’ve got the package and the pace to mix it with Australia’s best drivers,” said the Subaru driver, who will be alongside new co-driver in 2015 WA rally champion Toni Feaver.
Nathan Quinn, Tony Sullens and Marcus Walkem are others to watch in the first round of an Australian Rally Championship run in Ballarat area in 46 years.
The Eureka Rally began with a ceremonial start in the Bridge Mall.
Racing begins with the first heat rolling out of the rally hub in Victoria Park on Saturday at 8.30am.
This heat will take the field of 50-plus to testing circuits at Mt Hope, Blackwood Ridge and Korweinguboora east of the Ballan-Daylesford Road via Springbank and Bolwarral – returning to Victoria Park from 11am after completing the first of two phases.
Sunday’s heat, which starts at 8am, will take in the White Swan, Enfield, Ross Creek and Smythesdale areas.