EVANS’ RALLY GB CHANCES FADING
FROZEN OUT OF RALLY GB OUTING Welsh ace still determined to rejoin WRC top flight
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