EVANS SET ON WR CAR RETURN
Welshman vows to strike back despite
Elfyn Evans has vowed to get his World Rally Championship career back on track after being dropped from the M-sport World Rally Team for this season.
Instead of competing alongside Mads Ostberg in the frontline team, Evans will drive the Cumbrian squad’s Ford Fiesta R5 on a part-programme through 2016. Team principal Malcolm Wilson has already made clear, however, that he intends to run the Welshman in a Fiesta RS WRC on some events this season.
Talking to Motorsport News for the first time since news of his demotion late last year, Evans said: “Obviously this isn’t what I wanted for this year. It’s a tough one to swallow, but the important thing is that I’m still in the World Rally Championship.
“This is a bump in the road. Everybody has tough times in their career – unless your name is Sebastien and you’re French – and this is my tough time. I’ll deal with it and be back.”
Evans has been replaced by Eric Camilli, who was released from his Toyota Motorsport contract to join M-sport for 2016.
Evans added: “I felt I did everything in my power and to the best of my ability and to get judged on something which didn’t actually make that much difference was tough.
“I was shocked by the decision [not to take me], to be honest. I’m confident I can do the job on all surfaces and I think Rally GB proved that. People’s perception wasn’t 100 per cent correct about that event.”
Evans starts his programme in a works R5 car on the Monte Carlo Rally later this month and is expected to contest round two in Sweden as well.
“Monte’s quite a tricky event,” said Evans. “And it’s one you can’t really afford to sit out. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back there and getting the season started again.”
Evans is determined to change people’s view of him as a person and a driver this season.
“I’ve learned some hard lessons in the last couple of years,” said Evans. “I’ve been surprised at the way some of the things I didn’t expect to make a difference really did make a difference. For sure, people are going to see a change in me this year. Like I said, I didn’t agree with the decision, I don’t agree with the decision and my only priority right now is to get myself back in the World Rally Car as soon as possible.
“I’m not about to start pinpointing the exact areas where the changes will come, but I don’t think I have always been perceived in the best or right way in how I come across. Maybe I have been guilty of being too modest in the public eye, but I will change. Trust me, deep down, I have the confidence I can do this.”
Evans’ exact programme for 2016 has yet to be confirmed – but he’s ready to fight for as much seat time and opportunity as he can this year.
“I don’t know what Malcolm [Wilson] has planned for me this season,” he said, “but I’ll be doing everything I can to be in the car as often as possible. There’s been some talk of some BRC outings, nothing’s been decided, but that’s seat time.”
Wilson told MN: “We definitely want Elfyn around and we want him in the car. It’s possible we could switch drivers around in the main team and he could be in there [in the factory WRC car] on some events [this season].”
Evans has completed a handful of miles in the evolution version of the Fiesta R5, but will test the car in France the weekend before Monte Carlo.
“I drove the car far enough to get a good feeling,” Evans said. “From what the guys have told me, it’s a good step.”
Another change to Evans’ set-up this season is his co-driver. Craig Parry takes over from Dan Barritt.
Evans admitted the change wasn’t ideal, but added that he had no doubts about Parry’s ability in the car.
“I’m not under any illusions,” said Evans. “Dan and I worked together for three years and made great progress. From the start of last year, we gelled 100 per cent and it’s the work we did on the pacenotes that will make this change a little bit easier and speed it on. But I know we’re not going to do three year’s work in one event. It won’t be like having Dan in the car, but that’s not to decry Craig, who’s a great co-driver.”
Barritt remained tight-lipped on his plans for the future, but he is believed to have accepted a job with Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Barritt said: “I’m not in a position to talk about the future, but one thing is for sure: there was nothing in any way acrimonious in the decision for Elfyn and I to go our separate ways. We parted on very good terms. I got an opportunity elsewhere and circumstances led to me moving away – I absolutely wish him and Craig all the best.”
Second Monte for Lappi