“I love this rally now,” Ogier says, “I love the long corners and flowing roads and when the sun shines, the beautiful country. It’s a good race. And an important one for us this week.”
Arguably, Wales is one he has the best chance of winning. As championship leader, Ogier will be first on the road on the opening day in Wales. That, according to his British rival, Citroën’s Kris Meeke, is a big help.
“Generally speaking, the grip gets worse the more cars pass through the stage,” says the Northern Irishman. “If the conditions are typical, we’ll see a kind of crust on top of the forest roads and that gives pretty good grip, but that crust gets broken after three or four cars, then the mud comes to top and the grips deteriorates. We’re quite a few cars back, so it’s going to be tough.
“This is a fantastic rally on fantastic roads with brilliant fans, it’s my home round of the championship and, of course, I would love to win it. But we have to be realistic about the conditions and they are likely to make it pretty difficult. It’s about the same for Elfyn, he’s a wee bit better off, a few cars ahead of us on the road, but it’s still not going to be easy.”
The cars will virtually pass the end of Evans’ driveway this week and the Welshman admits there’s something special about a home run.
“There’s a real buzz from driving in front of the home crowd,” says Evans. “We’ve been right around the world with this championship and we come here, so close to my home. It’s fantastic and my favourite stage of the season [Gartheiniog] is here. I can’t wait to get stuck in. Yes, Kris is right, it will be difficult for us, but we’ve got an amazing car and some amazing stages to drive it on.”
Dayinsure Wales Rally GB starts with a spectator stage at Tir Prince, near the north Welsh coast on Thursday (October 26). Based around a central service park in Deeside, the following three days comprise 21 stages and 190 flat-out miles through the forests of mid and north Wales.
Photography by Ben Miles.