EVANS IN COM­MAND

NICKY GRIST STAGES RALLY RE­PORT

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - CLASS ROUND-UP RE­SULTS Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship, round 5/7, Nicky Grist Stages, July 9-10

fter two of the most gruelling days the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship has seen for quite some time, it was no sur­prise that its cur­rent con­queror El­fyn Evans took vic­tory on the Nicky Grist Stages.

The Sat­ur­day-sun­day, grav­e­las­phalt split didn’t de­ter the ta­ble top­per, who will take a 39-point lead into the next and penul­ti­mate BRC round – the Ul­ster – with fel­low Welsh­man Tom Cave sec­ond in event and stand­ings.

De­spite hav­ing done the gravel stages on the same event in 2013 as zero car in the then-new Fi­esta R5, El­fyn didn’t go quick­est on the first stage.

He had a costly spin at a right-han­der, which also caught out mul­ti­ple crews and meant Cave was the pace­man. The Aber­dovey driver has his mojo back after a pleas­ing sec­ond on the Scot­tish Rally, where a phe­nom­e­nal on­board video, re­leased by his Spencer Sport team, showed the level at which he was per­form­ing. Hap­pily he brought form in a sim­i­lar vein to a rally close to home.

Much like the Scot­tish, the early run­ning was de­fined by what the rapid CA1 Sport duo were up to. Pirelli Carlisle win­ner Fredrik Ah­lin was look­ing for­ward to this event with Welsh forests suit­ing his style. But he was soon out of the run­ning. A piece of slip­pery mud caught him out as he un­der­steered into a log pile and into an early exit. He’d be able to restart on the Sun­day.

With Ah­lin out early – as he was on the Scot­tish with a bro­ken prop­shaft – it was his team-mate David Bo­gie’s turn to have an is­sue. The Scot – with James O’reilly on the notes as Kevin Rae takes a step back – took the jump on Route 60 a lit­tle too ag­gres­sively and went off into a pro­ceed­ing field. That caused some light dam­age but heavy time penal­ties as he slipped back down the or­der. The im­pact had loos­ened a pipe re­strict­ing the turbo and it suf­fo­cated the Skoda Fabia R5. He’d set sec­ond quick­est times on the first two stages and was 1.1s down on the lead, but was third and 23.2s off the lead a stage later.

With that, Evans’ dom­i­nance en­sued. The first two stages proved how far the chas­ing pack have come as they stayed close, but with Ah­lin and Bo­gie both suf­fer­ing is­sues the writ­ing was on the wall. How­ever, a re­cur­ring pop-off valve is­sue meant Evans was hav­ing to com­pen­sate. The faulty valve can take away power in the click of the fingers which isn’t ideal in the slippy mud of mid-wales. The time that fol­lowed on SS3 was breath­tak­ing. He was 15.1s up on his near­est chal­lenger – Scot­tish podium fin­isher Desi Henry – as Cave took a hit, lit­er­ally. “Frus­trat­ing this morn­ing,” he said. “There was a bale on the cor­ner and we lost a lot of time. It was stated in the road­book and was sup­posed to be there on the recce and it wasn’t. We were told it wouldn’t be there on the rally but it was there. It tight­ened up the cor­ner a lot and I couldn’t make the cor­ner.”

Cave was 18.5s down on Evans and lucky to be in the rally, and com­pleted the loop by los­ing 5.6s to Evans but still re­main­ing sec­ond quick­est over­all.

The af­ter­noon loop was a re­run of the morn­ing’s stages, and lit­tle changed in the over­all or­der. Evans’ pop-off valve is­sue was rec­ti­fied in ser­vice and the real re­main­ing chal­lenge wasn’t for the driv­ers, but for the ser­vice crews that had just two and a half hours to con­vert the cars from gravel to as­phalt trim ready for Epynt on Sun­day.

The morn­ing’s bat­tle com­menced ear­lier than ex­pected; and not with the cars. The mil­i­tary were on the Epynt Ranges and de­layed the set-up of the chi­canes on the route, which had been a con­sci­en­tious is­sue on the recce with driv­ers and co-driv­ers alike point­ing to how tight they were and the like­li­hood that they’d be clipped and moved quickly, open­ing them up for the cars be­hind giv­ing them an ad­van­tage.

As Evans left ser­vice, he was con­fi­dent, as was team boss Glenn Pat­ter­son. Their tyre choice seemed per­fect for the morn­ing loop, un­til the start was de­layed by 15 min­utes. That left just enough time for it to rain which ham­pered Evans’ choice. He wasn’t alone in mak­ing tough tyre calls as the trick­i­ness of Epynt was not made any eas­ier by get­ting tyres wrong.

Evans’ griev­ances were clear as he topped the stage by just 0.1s from a charg­ing Bo­gie who’d never been to Epynt be­fore. Per­haps spurred on by his Done­gal Na­tional win last month, the Scot was on fine form.

He was up into third over­all on SS10, Quarry, while Jonny Greer pro­duced shades of 2007 by beat­ing Evans to the stage win. Both com­peted on the Mewla Rally over the ranges at the be­gin­ning of their ca­reers, with Greer top N3 driver and Evans third. How­ever, Greer’s win would be for a stage only.

On SS11, Evans re­turned to the top of the or­der. Less rain was good for the DMACK morn­ing tyre choice as he stretched the lead over Cave to 58.3s. Some­one en­joy­ing the Epynt as­phalt though was Henry – who was on Miche­lins for the first time in Wales hav­ing been Pirelli-shod for the first half of the sea­son. He’d taken out a chi­cane bale on the first stage of the morn­ing, but he was set­tling in nicely and im­proved on his sec­ond quick­est time on Cilieni by top­ping SS12 Quarry. It was needed as fel­low North­ern Ir­ish­man Greer was lurk­ing just un­der 20s be­hind.

That was soon length­ened though, as Henry again com­pleted the top two be­hind Evans on the last stage be­fore ser­vice. He’d taken the cor­rect tyres and he was ben­e­fit­ting from it al­though there was plenty still to learn on Epynt.

Cave was hold­ing sec­ond over­all and felt as if he was in no man’s land. He was a minute be­hind Evans but a minute ahead of Henry, leav­ing the Welsh­man to go rel­a­tively con­ser­va­tively over Epynt. There was plenty more in the tank.

With a five-stage loop after ser­vice, the driv­ers only got to com­plete two. BRC 3 driver Chris Wheeler’s heavy off on SS14 meant all safety crews had to at­tend and with the day al­ready de­layed the or­gan­is­ers cut their losses. Evans was quick­est on both of the fi­nal stages to score a key vic­tory. Much like the

Matt Ed­wards was the only en­try in BRC

for the sec­ond suc­ces­sive event as one driver sug­gested – only half jok­ing – that the Con­way driver had been too good and scared away any com­pe­ti­tion. That be­ing the case, Ed­wards and Rogers had a quiet run to 12th over­all, but a loud run to BRC 2 cham­pi­ons ( see

The pair­ing are the first con­firmed cham­pi­ons of the BRC’S new era after its hia­tus last year.

Chris Wheeler was the only en­try to BRC 3 in his Citroen DS 3 R3T, but crashed on SS14. Wheeler was kept

Cave (l) and Henry (r) re­peated Scot­tish top three Evans was fastest over Sun­day’s Epynt tests

Adiels­son man­aged sec­ond to a bril­liant win in the Ju­niors Dug­gan at­tracted the at­ten­tion of the Epynt mil­i­tary on his way

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