“El­fyn showed new char­ac­ter in Monte times”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

El­fyn Evans badly wanted to tell me where to go. Af­ter the Fri­day morn­ing he’d had, I was pretty near the top of the list of folk he was keen not to talk to. I per­se­vered. I wanted to find out where those five min­utes had gone. Note­book out of my pocket, I found a clean page and made to ask the first ques­tion.

“Se­ri­ously?” said Evans. “Why don’t we talk about my new over­alls? How about that…”

So we did. And then we talked about what was go­ing on, a chunk of which was off the record. It’s fair to say the Welsh­man was strug­gling to get much trac­tion from his stud­ded win­ter tyre on ice.

He’d lost two min­utes apiece on the first two Fri­day stages. Un­der­stand­ably, his mood wasn’t the best.

But his state of mind couldn’t have been bet­ter. Or more dif­fer­ent to where it would have been two years ago.

Two years ago, Evans would have been on the floor. Fin­ished. He’d have re­treated into him­self and had lit­tle to of­fer for the rest of the rally.

The last year has changed El­fyn. This time, he bounced back and he bounced higher than ever be­fore. He was un­be­liev­ably quick. With more dry as­phalt and less ice to work with, his Ford Fo­cus WRC was sen­sa­tion­ally quick on Satur­day.

In the mid­dle of a white-hot bat­tle for the lead on one of the most chal­leng­ing Monte Carlo Ral­lies in his­tory, Evans was sec­ond fastest on Satur­day’s ac­cu­mu­lated five stages. Sec­ond fastest to Se­bastien Ogier… by two-tenths of a sec­ond. The next near­est man to the two Fi­es­tas was their M-sport team-mate Ott Tanak, and he was 46.6 sec­onds be­hind Evans and his re­turn­ing co-driver Dan Bar­ritt.

The crown­ing glory for Evans, DMACK, and the Fi­esta was SS13 – the first com­pletely dry stage of the sea­son. A stage where every­body was on the same, soft com­pound.

The driv­ers knew this was the place to put a marker down. Was this be­hind Neuville’s shunt? Did he get greedy? Ask him and he’ll deny it, but every­body knew the score.

And Evans was quick­est again, 1.7s up on Ogier. The good news for the cham­pi­onship is that both the Citroen and the Toy­ota were in the ball­park here as well.

What about Evans’ Bri­tish col­league Kris Meeke. Should we be con­cerned? Not a bit. He had a bad day at the of­fice.

Should we be con­cerned about the Citroen? Hmm… the jury has to stay out on that one un­til Swe­den. It would be fair to say Ver­sailles’ of­fer­ing was the least im­pres­sive of the new cars. As one fel­low com­peti­tor rather un­kindly put it: “Looks like they just brought last year’s tour­ing car.”

The C3 was run­ning lower than any­thing else and con­se­quently looked more ner­vous than any­thing else.

We’ll know more af­ter Swe­den and even more af­ter Mex­ico. Let’s re­serve judge­ment. Apart from on this new era of the WRC: I can tell you right now, that’s an ab­so­lute win­ner.

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