FROZEN OUT OF RALLY GB OUT­ING Welsh ace still de­ter­mined to re­join WRC top flight

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­database.com

Welsh hero El­fyn Evans won’t start next week’s Dayin­sure Wales Rally GB and his hopes of a re­turn to the M-sport World Rally Team for 2017 are fad­ing fast as Ott Tanak closes on a works seat next sea­son.

Evans and co-driver Craig Parry ap­pear on the en­try list for the fi­nal Euro­pean WRC round of the sea­son, but M-sport sources have con­firmed they won’t be tak­ing the start.

The cur­rent WRC2 se­ries leader had made it clear he wanted to re­turn to a World Rally Car for his home round of the cham­pi­onship, but the lack of car avail­abil­ity has made that all-but im­pos­si­ble – all of M-sport’s 2016 spec­i­fi­ca­tion Ford Fi­esta RS WRCS have al­ready been com­mit­ted to en­tries. There was, MN understands, po­ten­tial for an older car, but that chance has now passed.

Asked what he thought the chances were of him start­ing Wales Rally GB, Evans told MN: “I don’t know, but it’s look­ing more un­likely. It would be a shame to miss it, but do­ing it meant do­ing it un­der the right cir­cum­stances.”

M-sport team prin­ci­pal Malcolm Wil­son de­nied any fi­nal de­ci­sions had been taken re­gard­ing Wales or next sea­son.

Evans’ chances of a re­turn to the M-sport squad he drove for through 2014 and 2015 were thought to be linked to him re­turn­ing to a fac­tory-spec Ford Fi­esta RS WRC at some point this sea­son. Rally Ger­many was reck­oned to be the most likely time for him to step back in, but the Trier-based event clashed with Evans’ Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship com­mit­ment.

Evans won the BRC ti­tle with the DMACK team and won three of the seven WRC2 rounds he has started this year. He feels he’s done enough.

“I think I’ve shown what I’m ca­pa­ble of and what the [R5] car’s ca­pa­ble of,” he said. “But now the time has come for me to step back up to a World Rally Car. That’s the only op­tion. I don’t re­ally think that you can say this sea­son has done me any favours. I know I’m a lot faster than some of the driv­ers who al­ready have seats in the WRC.

“I’ve still got op­tions for next year, there’s still some talk­ing go­ing on, so there’s still a chance that you’re go­ing to see me next year. But, right now, there’s noth­ing con­firmed.”

Wil­son is in no rush to re­veal his plans for a driver line-up say­ing: “I can’t tell you any­thing at the mo­ment. We’re still talk­ing about who could do what, but as you can imag­ine we’re fairly busy right now.”

Asked to com­ment on the chances of a Tanak re­turn to the top flight, Wil­son ac­knowl­edged it as “one pos­si­ble op­tion.”

A source close to Tanak and the team told MN: “Of course Ott’s back in the team next sea­son. There’s been a lot of non­sense about Ott go­ing to Toy­ota or an­other place, but that’s not go­ing to hap­pen. Have you seen how much test­ing Ott is do­ing with the new car? Malcolm wouldn’t have him in that car for so long if he wasn’t go­ing to be us­ing him next sea­son. Ott will be back and he’ll be win­ning with us next sea­son.”

Tanak wouldn’t be drawn on his fu­ture, say­ing: “We have done a lot of de­vel­op­ment work this year, so, ob­vi­ously, we want to be back fight­ing again next sea­son. We have some very good op­tions and I’m sure we will be at the top level again next year – when the plan is to have the per­fect pack­age to be able to fight for ev­ery­thing.”

The Es­to­nian would not be drawn on whether DMACK tyres were in­cluded in the per­fect pack­age or if he had to be on Miche­lins, along with the rest of the field.

“I’m not say­ing any more,” Tanak added.

Evans (inset) has un­cer­tain fu­ture

Ost­berg has strug­gled

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