Rally GB Retro: When Evans won on unfancied rubber

Running tires from underdogs DMACK, Evans picked the best place imaginable to break his WRC duck

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIPWALES RALLY GB

Only once did Elfyn Evans look genuinely stressed; coming out of Myherin second time through on Friday October 27. He’d done the TV interview, said all the right things about a lead that had grown by almost 10 seconds in the last 12 miles, but as I went to shut the door, he put his hand out to stop it.

Anxiety creased his face as he reached for his cans.

“It’s drying out too quickly,” he said. “I don’t know…”

I tried to reassure him. Gave him my best, ‘Don’t worry, it’s bound to pour down any minute’ face and sent him on his way.

The worry was specific to the four DMG+22s beneath him.

DMACK had cooked some new boots for Evans’ M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC. Their softer compound was working a treat. Providing it stayed wet. The blue skies which sat above the woods just off the A44 were not part of the plan.

For once, Wales prayed for rain.

But in the end, nobody need have worried. Evans was masterful in his tire management and strategy to close Sunday out with a 37-second lead over everybody.

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Photo: M-Sport

For the first time in 17 years, the Union Flag flew higher than any other above the Rally GB podium. That’s just one year short of the gap between Roger Clark’s 1976 win and Colin McRae’s maiden success in 1994.

Typically, Evans and co-driver Dan Barritt took it in their stride. They were on the roof, but they weren’t dancing on the ceiling. They talked the talk, but there were no extravagant predictions of title challenges or wins flowing in faster than the River Severn bursting out between the trees in Hafren.

It was all very Elfyn: restrained, conservative, and very dignified.

The same couldn’t be said for the crowds in the woods. They went wild. And rightly so.

The same couldn’t be said for the wider M-Sport team. They went bananas. And even more rightly so.

For the Welshman, winning in his backyard was a very big deal. To his team, it was the icing on the cake.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIPWALES RALLY GB

Photo: M-Sport

In a quite extraordinary – actually totally bonkers – 10 minutes alongside Llyn Brenig, the Cumbrian squad won the rally, the manufacturers’ world championship and the drivers’ title with Sébastien Ogier.

Malcolm Wilson understandably talked about this being the biggest moment of his career and a passage of time so special, the sport wouldn’t see anything like it again.

For British rally fans, Super Sunday was every bit as special as anything Jess Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farrah achieved on a balmy Saturday night in London five years earlier.

For Evans, the bigger picture is about the belief that win delivers. He knew he could do it, the team knew he could do it, but until you actually break that duck, there’s always the element of doubt.

Yes, there was the odd pointless dig about the DMACKs, but as Ogier rightly pointed out: “The car still had to be driven.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIPWALES RALLY GB

Photo: M-Sport

And it was. Driven in some style.

Driven to a result as historic and important as anything Colin McRae had achieved before a spectating Elfyn. A watching Elfyn who’d dodged school to make sure he didn’t miss a moment of the Scot’s Subaru masterclass 20-odd years ago.

Looking at the Peall Trophy in the middle of Llandudno three years ago, Evans took a moment. His name. Dan’s name. They’d be going right there. Next to the greats. The best of the best.

Maybe the time had come for a cold one. Or two.

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