ELFYN Elfyn Evans just held back the tears as he claimed his maiden victory at the very highest level in the sport, on Wales Rally GB last weekend.
Evans’ victory in an M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta WRC came 10 years after he first contested the event at the wheel of a front-wheel drive Ford Fiesta, and is the first ever Welsh driver to win a round of the World Rally Championship.
Evans, from Dolgellau, son of 1996 British Rally Champion Gwyndaf, dominated the classic event held on forest stages in Mid and North Wales to end a 17 year drought of home Wales Rally GB winners since 2001 World Champion Richard Burns claimed victory in a Subaru Impreza, in 2000.
“I just about held them back,” said Evans, when asked if there were tears as he crossed the finish line of Brenig, the event’s 21st and final stage on Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve been very lucky to have a lot of support, not just from my family, but a close network of people from M-Sport as well. To see everybody there at the end of the last stage was pretty special. There were so many people, I don’t think Brenig’s ever seen so many people.”
The 28 year old, driving for the DMACK Tyres-backed team, said he knew he had the pace to win after the Thursday pre-event Shakedown stage, and went on to lead the rally for all but one stages.
“After shakedown I think we knew that if conditions came to us then we had the speed there to challenge for victory,” said the man co-driven by Daniel Barritt.
“But you can never predict anything with this rally. To have a clean run with no problems and no mistakes, no spins, is very difficult here.
“And we’ve had to balance the endurance of the tyre package, we’ve had the performance, but we’ve had to manage the life of the tyres as well. All-in-all, it came together. But in terms of the feeling, I felt it was within my reach all the time, I wasn’t too stressed.”
The best result of Evans career comes less than two years after he was dropped from his full-time drive in the WRC by M-Sport.
Evans competed in the second-tier WRC2 category in 2016, and impressed boss Malcolm Wilson by winning WRC2 events and claiming the British Rally Championship title to earn his 2017 drive.
Wales Rally GB was a special event for the Cumbrian M-Sport team, which won the World Rally Manufacturers title and Drivers title with five-time Champion Sebastien Ogier.
The weekend proved memorable for a number of other Mid Wales crews with Aberdovey’s Tom Cave claiming a place on the WRC2 podium, ending third in class.
Meanwhile Welshpool’s Zak Hughes was crowned Swift Series champion after ending the national rally 23rd overall and second in the 1600cc class.
Hughes said: “I am very happy to have won the 2017 Swift Championship with a fourth win in the series. To finish so high up the overall leader board on Wales Rally GB is also a fantastic achievement in my first year of senior competition.”
Meanwhile Machynlleth’s Hywel Evans, co-driven by Clive Jones of Trewern ended 14th in the national rally with Bettws Cedewain’s Alun Horn, co-driven by Bishops Castle’s Ian Beamond, completing the class in 17th place.
See full story in the County Times