SCOTTISH TRIUMPH FOR EVANS
BRITISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP REPORT
It’s 20 years since Gwyndaf Evans won his first and only BRC title, the last Welshman to win the coveted championship, but his son Elfyn is doing his best to end that barren streak for a country in such fine sporting form in 2016.
The RSAC Scottish Rally signified the passing of the halfway mark in the reformed series; Elfyn Evans demonstrated his supreme pace putting him back in pole position to inherit the honour from his dad, another British Rally champion from Wales.
The fight was set to be as closely fought as any so far this year, with Evans and Fredrik Ahlin both winning their double points races and distorting the championship order, thus leaving a large gap back to the next title hopeful. However, it wasn’t set to be distorted for much longer as fourth placed championship man Tom Cave and regular top three runner David Bogie had played their jokers and gone all out.
With Bogie a couple of miles from his Scottish home, the 2011 BRC champion was hotly favoured but it was generally accepted he would need the perfect weekend to beat Evans, unless the Welshman suffered an issue. Bogie had tested with team-mate and championship leader Ahlin earlier in the week, and Pirelli had brought a special compound for the CA1 duo. With Evans on DMACKS and Cave on Michelins, the battle was finely poised.
Tyres played a key role from the outset. Both Bogie and Cave fell foul of the rough and rocky Scottish roads with deflated covers on the opening run through Twiglees. Evans went quickest despite suffering from oversteer and Ahlin was struggling. He reckoned being out of the car for so long had left him rusty while most of his fellow drivers had competed on events in the seven week gap between events.
With that, the home hero Bogie was 8.8s down on Evans after one stage with Cave a further three back. That probably told you how hard they were pushing in the stage with both suffering punctures.
Just before a quick service halt there was time for a Scottish classic, Castle O’er. Despite not competing in Scotland before, Evans went quickest again. After a puncture in Carlisle and a slight off on Rally Argentina in WRC2, the Welshman’s 2016 campaign showed signs of lagging on both sides. But a supreme opening gambit resulted in a 13.3s lead over Bogie.
The Scot, despite suffering a second puncture in two stages, managed fourth quickest but felt there was something wrong with the rear of the car after a brace of punctures. The perfect weekend hadn’t started well. Ahlin however was second quickest on the test and only 2.5s down on Evans, who had a quick call at service from Gwyndaf, who Elfyn reported was “just checking up on me.”
A group of three stages followed after the first service and it was normal service resumed. Evans was quickest on all three extending his lead to 40.8s despite still suffering from oversteer. Maybe the phone call provided extra motivation: perhaps remembering his father losing out to Scandinavian Jarmo Kytolehto on the Perth Scottish Rally 20 years earlier on his way to the title.
The real battle unfolding was for second overall. Ahlin went out on SS4 with a broken propshaft leaving Bogie and Cave to fight it out. On the middle stage of the three-test loop, Bogie went second quickest and was the only person in Evans’ postcode coming within 4.8s of the DMACK driver. That gave him second overall which he maintained into the service after three where he lost another 5.8s.
“Elfyn is driving so well,” he said. “I can see his lines and we’re on the same one for most of it, but my style is so flamboyant. I probably look quicker but we’re losing exit speed, which is where rallying is won and lost.”
It was a double-edged sword for Bogie, as the same aggressive style had helped him win the national category in Donegal the weekend before. But rallying has come a long way since the Ford Escort Mk2 was designed and Bogie is still coming to grips with the need to keep the R5 cars as neat and tidy as possible to maintain speed.
Cave was close behind Bogie on SS5, and only 9.6s down on the Scot. He suffered a loss of power in SS4 but the problem appeared to be rectified for SS5 so the battle could go on. The mood of the frontrunners in the service park was one of inevitability. Even if they didn’t admit it, the looks on the drivers faces were clear, Evans was favourite.
It wasn’t quite straight forward for Elfyn though, it hasn’t been all year.
A niggle had been at the back of his mind all morning, the diff was thought to be the cause of the oversteer. Something wasn’t right. The DMACK team, run by Ken Skidmore’s Autotek outfit, elected to change it for safety. But in rallying, you can never guarantee something else won’t go wrong…
Meanwhile, Bogie and Cave had two tests to fight each other out and wait for Evans’ seemingly inevitable issue. It should have been three tests, but much to the disappointment of the Spencer Sport outfit running Tom Cave, it was shortened when Knockenshang was deemed too rough to run.
Between the Scot and the Welshman there was only 0.5s on SS6 with Cave taking first blood. But that meant 9.1s between Cave’s Fiesta and Bogie’s Skoda Fabia going into the final test and Bogie’s bad day could at least yield second.
Cave, fresh off winning the Plains Rally – a BTRDA counter – and a big test before the Scottish, still elected to push. BRC onlookers have been waiting for him to put on a push like it, yet to be seen this year. But if anyone needed a reminder of the 24-year-old’s ability, it was plain to see. He wrestled Evans’ honour of winning every stage on the rally away and went quickest aided by the talented James Morgan. Not just quickest, but quickest by 4.7s.
As the times came in to the Dumfries finish ramp, the Spencer Sport boys were happy. But they got one more surprise before the cars arrived.
The news was in. Bogie was out.
Groans from the crowd as the finish ceremony MC delivered the news over the load speaker. A busted radiator meant he was out and his bad luck continues in 2016.
Even Cave grimaced at the bad luck Bogie had suffered. But he’s had a fair share of his own bad luck this year and took the second place with aplomb.
But what of Evans? Last-stage drama. The pop-off valve was malfunctioning, and in order to remedy the problem he had to lift off for a couple of seconds. Parry added: “It’s not too bad, unless you get out of shape and it happens, and you lose power when you need the grunt to pull you out.”
Luckily, those words came from the finish ramp as the duo held on for a big result labelled a “must win” by DMACK team boss Glenn Patterson. After a puncture relegated them to third in Carlisle, the absence of Ahlin means Evans takes a 20 point gap into the Nicky Grist where he knows the Saturday stages well.
With Bogie out, the podium needed filling, and it was the inform Desi Henry that stepped up to the job. He and navigator Liam Moynihan won the DMACK Carlisle Stages earlier this month and saw off the strong opposition. He endeared himself to the Dumfries spectators at the finish by humbly announcing: “I’m on the
podium with Elfyn Evans, and I am just a builder by day...”
Henry led a charge from a number of runners from over the Irish sea. Belfastman Jonny Greer with Scot Kirsty Riddick on the notes continued a strong and consistent run netting them more points. The crew were one of a few out in Donegal in what has been a busy month for the duo, but there were no signs of any exhaustion on their way to fourth of the BRC runners.
Also making the journey over after Donegal was Monaghan’s Josh Moffett, whose championship position remains strong despite missing the Pirelli Carlisle. He managed fifth, and after finishing as the highest-placed BRC runner at the Circuit of Ireland, he’s fourth and still yet to play his joker.
Similar to Cave, a national event win spurred on another Fiesta driver. Jamie Anderson and Ross Whittock rounded out the top six in Scotland after winning the Severn Valley Stages, with a third fastest stage time on SS8 his best so far this year.
As the dust settled, it was fitting Evans imposed his wrath on the rest of the opposition with four rounds gone and three remaining. While he flew out to Poland on Sunday to prepare for WRC2 duties, the rest of the chasers – especially Ahlin – must be wondering what they can do to stop him.
Morgan/cave (l) and Moynihan/henry (r) flank Parry/evans Evans retook BRC series lead with win
Bogie retired from second
Edwards: Another BRC 2 win in Scotland
Cave was rapid in second place
Desi Henry took podium position