When World Rally Championship points leader Elfyn Evans was a boy, he was immersed in rallying. With a British Rally Champion as his father, it was almost inevitable. Naturally, that made Gwyndaf Evans the sporting hero of Evans Jr’s formative years.
But Evans can remember the image of Colin McRae approaching corners in his usual spectacular style when he was out watching his dad. As with anybody else that watched McRae pedal a rally car, that was an image that stuck long – and grew – in the mind.
On the cusp of achieving the same legend-creating result for Great Britain as McRae did in 1995 exactly 25 years ago on Sunday, Evans spoke to DirtFish’s Colin Clark about whether there would be parallels between Scotland’s swashbuckler of the stages and Wales’ new great sporting export.
“It’s crazy when you mention 25 years since Colin won the championship,” said Evans.
“I don’t remember that particular moment, I was a bit young, but of course I remember following Colin and what a massive icon he was. So I still don’t really think of myself on the same sort of page as those guys to be honest.”
McRae in particular became a megastar following his 1995 WRC title win, securing a lucrative pay packet when he signed for Ford in 1999 and even working with Codemasters to create a computer game – Colin McRae Rally – bearing his name.
“Obviously Colin was a massive brand as well as an incredible icon in the sport so for me, all I’m trying to do is of course try and achieve the ultimate goal of becoming world champion,” Evans added.
“But I don’t really think about myself on the same page as Colin just because of his size and stature in the sport really.”
When Evans was very young, and therefore very small, the driver with the biggest size and stature was of course father Gwyndaf. That was until he got that first sight of McRae doing what he does best with a rally car.
“I think it was a bit strange for me growing up,” he said.
“Obviously my dad was competing and therefore you naturally follow your dad as a young kid and the excitement around the household of Rally GB etc.
“But for sure, one of my first memories of watching a rally was waiting for my dad and seeing Colin come into view as the first car and I remember standing up on top of this bank and he came down very spectacularly into view but when he went past, he was at 90 degrees to the road and I’m sure a lot of people have that similar sort of vision of Colin coming into sight and that’s really when I remember about Colin.
“And then of course the hype around the McRae, [Richard] Burns battles and the sort of stories that built up around Rally GB about them perhaps not getting on so well etc but it was all part of the hype and part of the excitement back then.”
But Evans is part of the hype now. He is the excitement for today’s young British rally fans.
Just one rally stands between him and world champion status and, should the Toyota driver pull it off, he’ll become just the third British World Rally Champion alongside McRae and Burns and will – regardless of what he thinks – be inducted into rallying folklore.