Evans was pre­dictably supreme as Ah­lin chal­lenged.

Motor Sport News - - Brc Review: How It Was Won - By Jack Benyon

It was a fore­gone con­clu­sion. There wasn’t a per­son alive who re­ally be­lieved El­fyn Evans could be beaten in the 2016 Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship sea­son.

But, he was prob­a­bly run closer than peo­ple ex­pected. The qual­ity of the driv­ing in the BRC 1 class this year was near ex­cep­tional. And there’s no doubt, as the sea­son wore on, driv­ers were im­prov­ing in their ef­forts to keep up with Evans.

There was only one in the same league at the start of the year though, Fredrik Ah­lin. The Swede has scalped some big names in his Ju­nior ca­reer, but showed up as a vir­tual un­known in New­town for the Mid Wales Stages. As Evans strug­gled on DMACKS, try­ing to clear the slushy and snowy gravel roads of My­herin and Pikes Peak, the Swede rev­elled. Such was the threat to DMACK that it sent out Evans’ team­mate, Max Vata­nen, on R2 tyres to see if they’d work bet­ter. Al­though Evans pulled out one of the stages of the year through Hafren/sweet Lamb to gap Ah­lin by 16s, the gaunt­let had been thrown down. Evans left the open­ing round with a 35-point lead thanks to play­ing his dou­ble-points joker, which in­flated his 25 points for win­ning.

There would be a re­prieve from Ah­lin on the next round, the Cir­cuit of Ire­land. Or so we thought. The Swede had no prior ex­pe­ri­ence of a four­wheel-drive car on as­phalt. But Evans – de­spite match­ing and of­ten beat­ing even­tual event win­ner Craig Breen’s times on DMACKS not suited to as­phalt – re­tired on SS3 and it was game on. Could Ah­lin nar­row the gap?

No, he couldn’t. A late pacenote left the Swede in the bushes and any chance of cut­ting Evans’ lead had gone.

The Swede is fiery, more like a Latin driver than a Scan­di­na­vian, and it showed on the next round. The ‘Bo­gey­gate’ fi­asco – in which many driv­ers were given no­tional times for go­ing too quickly – meant he’d gone faster than Evans on the open­ing stage of the Pirelli Carlisle Stages but had none of the ben­e­fit as both re­ceived no­tional times. A sand­wich was thrown into the trees, the Swede wasn’t happy. He’d played his dou­ble-points joker and to have a chance of stay­ing with Evans in the ti­tle race, he’d have to win. His Pirellis worked won­ders, but Evans had tyre is­sues of his own. The Welsh­man copped a punc­ture on the Satur­day and was re­stricted to a third place fin­ish. Ah­lin took a ma­jes­tic win and the points were closer. And then it all fell apart. Scot­land; Ah­lin suf­fered prop­shaft fail­ure. On the Nicky Grist Stages, he hit a log pile.

Evans con­tin­ued to be the fastest and most con­sis­tent of the lot, win­ning both events. The DMACKS that were talked about so much at the start of the year were work­ing well. And Evans had the sweet spot. It’s easy to for­get at the start of the year he was deal­ing with the men­tal stress of los­ing a WRC seat and his co-driver. By mid-sea­son he was com­pet­ing reg­u­larly in an R5 in WRC2 with new nav­i­ga­tor Craig Parry. Af­ter Ah­lin’s woe in Scot­land and Wales, a win on the Ul­ster would do the job for Evans. He wrapped it up, 20 years af­ter his fa­ther, Gwyn­daf, won the same ti­tle. A fit­ting end to a fairy­tale year.

Only it wasn’t the end. He rocked up and beat Manx mas­ter Mark Higgins in his own back­yard. Yes, Evans had a prefer­able gear ra­tio setup, but he also had a drive­shaft fail­ure. And still over­came Higgins in the same car. BRC? Mis­sion ac­com­plished.

Ah­lin set some stag­ger­ing times in Ul­ster and Isle of Man, con­sid­er­ing his lack of ex­pe­ri­ence. But two pacenote er­rors ru­ined his Ul­ster as­sault and a blown engine ended the Manx. His fourth in the cham­pi­onship ex­plains none of his 2016 BRC as­sault. Other than the dis­ap­point­ment.

Sadly, both driv­ers are un­likely to re­turn to bat­tle in the BRC next year.

Best of the rest

Tom Cave took sec­ond in the cham­pi­onship, af­ter con­sis­tency proved the key to his ti­tle as­sault. Four podi­ums in seven rounds – in­clud­ing back-to-back sec­ond place fin­ishes on the Scot­tish and Nicky Grist – was a good year for the R5 debu­tant with new team Spencer Sport.

Be­hind Cave was Jonny Greer, who was one of a num­ber of driv­ers in with a shot of tak­ing sec­ond on the fi­nal round. Another driver dis­play­ing con­sis­tency, the like­able Greer de­served his spot. Ah­lin fin­ished fourth, with Josh Mof­fett’s Cir­cuit of Ire­land win boost­ing him to fifth. Desi Henry was rapid in the sec­ond half of the sea­son, and will be aim­ing to fin­ish higher than sixth in 2017. ■

Evans took ti­tle 20 years af­ter fa­ther, Gwyn­daf (r)

Parry played a part in DMACK’S BRC ti­tle suc­cess

Ah­lin won in Carlisle to worry Evans

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