“We al­ready have a new Evans for 2016”

Motor Sport News - - Monte Carlo Rally -

The World Rally Cham­pi­onship sea­son opener in Monte Carlo never short-changes in terms of ac­tion, in­ci­dent, drama and in­trigue. And boy, were we treated to a pos­i­tive smor­gas­bord of ral­ly­ing de­lights this time round in the Prin­ci­pal­ity and the moun­tains in­land from the glo­ri­ous French Riviera.

From wild con­spir­acy the­o­ries sur­round­ing the Kris Meeke ‘rock­gate’ in­ci­dent to un­der­per­form­ing Hyundais; from surly Spa­niards to Pol­ish good­byes, this Monte had the lot.

But for me, as a proudly Bri­tish rally fan, there was one stand­out per­for­mance.

The some­time sub­lime but of­ten in­fu­ri­at­ingly frus­trat­ing Welsh won­der­boy Elfyn Evans has had a funny old few weeks. I’m quite happy to say on record that my big­gest dis­ap­point­ment at Rally GB was the lack of fight shown by Evans when faced with a do-or-die ul­ti­ma­tum from the bosses at M-sport.

On the face of it, it was a cow­ardly ca­pit­u­la­tion. On the ev­i­dence dis­played in Wales, no one could re­ally ar­gue with Mal­colm Wil­son’s de­ci­sion to cut his losses and look else­where for the next big thing in ral­ly­ing.

But as is so of­ten the case, in ad­ver­sity, the hu­man spirit digs into its dark­est re­cess to rein­vent it­self.

Step for­ward the 2016 ver­sion of the man we once knew as Elfyn. This wasn’t the timid, shy, re­tir­ing, apolo­getic, un­der-per­form­ing boy who qui­etly left the WRC ser­vice park in Dee­side, bound for the near­est job cen­tre.

The man with the Welsh flag fly­ing proudly on the side of the R5 Fi­esta in Monte had grown a pair. There was fight, there was grit, there was com­mit­ment, there was speed and, above all, there was a re­sult.

His per­for­mance in win­ning the R5 cat­e­gory last week was noth­ing short of sen­sa­tional. A punc­ture in the very first stage would have floored a lesser man, not the new Evans. A stun­ning fight­back was tem­po­rar­ily stalled by a se­cond punc­ture in SS9. Again, he picked him­self up and launched him­self along Alpine passes with dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect. The win was hard-fought and richly de­served.

Right now I be­lieve Evans, early as it may be in the sea­son, has es­tab­lished him­self as the hottest young prop­erty in the WRC field. He has class, style, speed and ruth­less­ness ooz­ing from his once milky white pores. Keep this up and he might well have the pick of M-sport, Citroen, Toy­ota and maybe even Hyundai seats come the end of the sea­son.

The painful mem­ory of the win­ter just gone is fad­ing fast. The shoul­ders are broader, the stance wider, the heart big­ger, the eyes wider.

A new man stands be­fore us.

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