Has Elfyn Evans got the magic?
It’s hard not to be impressed by this quietly spoken young Welshman. Caught in the spotlight as he now undoubtedly is. Deftly handling the attention while not allowing himself to be distracted from the job in hand, that is winning the World Rally Championship. Be in no doubt Elfyn Evans is a man on a mission.
Born into a family with a rallying pedigree, his dad Gwyndaf Evans hurtled through the stages in the nineties and noughties, creating a name for himself on his way to winning the British Rally Championship in 1996. No surprise then that Elfyn should follow in his father’s footsteps. In fact the family’s involvement with cars dates back well before then. His great grandfather started a Ford dealership in Wales in 1930 and it’s still the family business today.
Although his first love was bikes, “learning” to drive at the age of eight no doubt fired interest in four wheels! But it wasn’t until Elfyn reached seventeen that he took to the stages in his own self built Micra which he campaigned in Group N. Although it was by no means a walk in the park to start with, success followed.
According to the innately modest Elfyn “I’ve had to work fairly hard at it to be honest. I don’t think the speed came that natural. I need a few rally’s to get comfortable and then apply the squeeze thereafter”
For a man who claims ‘the speed’ doesn’t come naturally, his progress up the classes certainly doesn’t back that up!
2008 saw him take the Fiesta Sporting Trophy, a success he repeated in 2010 along with taking awards for Junior British Rally Championship and Pirelli Star Driver winner. In 2011 the ever upwards progress saw him finish in 2nd place overall in the British Rally Championship. You could say by that point Elfyn had been well and truly noticed! But the really big breakthrough was just around the corner.
In 2012 he won the FIA WRC Academy title which catapulted him onto the world stage in 2013 driving a WCR2. Things then got better still when the chance came to race a full WRC car in Italy. He took sixth overall, the best ever result by a Junior WRC driver making their debut in a ‘full’ WRC car and putting the Evans name firmly back on the rally map.
In his first full season of driving a Fiesta WRC, Elfyn and Daniel Barritt his co-driver have scored handsomely, despite having to come to terms with yet another performance step, the steep learning curve that that entails.”To drive the car initially is very easy, it does everything you want. The difficulty comes when you really want to go quickly because the car is so fast and so capable it’s applying the speed that’s the tricky bit!”.
“To drive the car initially is very easy, it does everything you want. The difficulty comes when you really want to go quickly…”
Adapting to the relative warp speed of a WRC was one thing to get acclimatised to, the other was competing on some rallies for the first time…
“Having to settle to learn and not push too much was frustrating” reflected Elfyn. No doubt the odd words of wisdom from dad, and M-Sport owner Malcom Wilson, helped steady the steely ambition that emanates from this quietly confident competitor. Nevertheless tarmac rally’s in particular seemed a happy hunting ground with strong finishes in Germany and France and a final finishing of eighth overall for the season.
“On the whole it’s been a roller coaster year but we’ve gained a great bank of experience to build upon for this year”. Typically modest words from a young head still only facing his second season in WRC and it has to be said, up again some very stiff competition in particular from the likes of Volkswagen and Citroen.
This year’s season opener will be as usual the foray into the mountains above Monte Carlo. With unpredictable weather always a hallmark of this classic, it’s an acid test of car and driver. To add to the challenges, seven times champion Sebastien Loeb will be making his only WRC appearance this year at the event, so that will be another driver to beat in the drive for victory.
But Elfyn isn’t phased by big names. He’s keeping his head down and concentrating on the immediate job in hand of how to extract maximum performance from his M-Sport Fiesta WRC. And from himself. He’s expecting to see his name feature more frequently on the leaderboard this season. We think he’s probably right.