Elfyn Evans wins Rally Sweden, Mitch Evans wins Mexico Formula E
Two drivers who share the same surname dominated their respective fields of play in world motorsport this weekend, as Elfyn Evans conquered Rally Sweden for Toyota and Mitch Evans led all the way for Jaguar in Formula E’s visit to Mexico City.
Remember after the Monte Carlo Rally season opener we dared to mention Elfyn Evans as a genuine contender for the World Rally Championship? Well, forget the notion that such a proclamation might have been presumptuous after round two of the 2020 season. The Welshman, 31, is now joint top of the drivers’ standings after becoming the first British driver in history to win Rally Sweden.
He underlined just why Toyota was right to sign him for this year by dominating an event shortened by unseasonal good weather. A lack of snow seriously undermined the usually spectacular winter rally, and with fears the cars would cause too much damage to softened roads, just nine stages were run across Friday to Sunday morning. Evans won five of them.
The result marks a second WRC victory for the man who is now in contention to become Britain’s first world rally champion since Richard Burns, way back in 2001. Evans’s first win came on home soil at Wales Rally GB in 2017, but significantly he has now tasted success overseas – and there’s no reason why he can’t maintain this new-found momentum into the heart of the season.
Reigning world champion Ott Tänak showed he is fully recovered from a horrible accident on the Monte to finish runner-up for Hyundai, in his second rally start for the manufacturer.
Meanwhile, Finland’s 19-year-old Kalle Rovanperä sensationally beat off Toyota team-mate and six-time world champion Sébastien Ogier in a final-stage shootout to claim his first WRC podium. Like Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in Formula 1, Rovanperä represents an exciting new generation in rallying and is clearly a young man in a hurry.
Monte Carlo Rally winner Thierry Neuville was sixth this time for Hyundai, but four points earned on the Power Stage means he still heads the standings – even if he now shares that top spot with Evans. The next round is Rally Mexico on March 12-13th.
In Mexico City on Saturday, Mitch Evans scored his and Jaguar’s second victory in Formula E and their first of the 2019/20 season to jump to the top of the points standings after four rounds.
The New Zealander claimed one of the most dominant victories in the series’ six-year history after leading all the way. Andre Lotterer had claimed Porsche’s first Formula E pole position, but failed to make a great start and was muscled out by his fellow front row starter at Turn 1.
The pair collided, but as Evans escaped up the road Lotterer had more contact with Sam Bird and was forced to retire thanks to a wheel spat rubbing his right-front tyre.
Victory for Jaguar, which now lies second in the teams’ standings behind BMW Andretti, comes at a great time for the British car maker, which has largely underachieved since entering Formula E in 2016. The arrival of Mercedes and Porsche in the series this year left many wondering whether the big German entries, which also includes Audi, would stamp their authority over the all-electric series and leave the likes of Jaguar questioning its Formula E future if it kept getting beaten.
Instead, neither Mercedes nor Porsche has yet to win a race – and now Jaguar’s Evans carries a single-point lead in the drivers’ standings over BMW Andretti’s Alexander Sims into round five, which takes place in Marrakesh on February 29th.
Sims finished fifth in Mexico after inheriting the position from Mercedes’ pre-race points leader (and previously consistent) Stoffel Vandoorne, who understeered into a wall in the closing stages. Vandoorne has now dropped to fourth in the points, behind DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa, who inherited second place in Mexico after Virgin’s Bird understeered off into the same wall Vandoorne would hit shortly after.
Former champions Sébastien Buemi and Jean-Eric Vergne took season-best finishes in third and fourth in Mexico, but languish outside the top 10 in the points after relatively poor starts to the season. Still, there are nine rounds to go, including the London ePrix double-header season finale. That gives them plenty of time to claw their way up to be key players in the championship chase come July.
Rain stops play in Daytona
The main event at America’s Superbowl of motorsport, the Daytona 500, turned out to be President Trump’s appearance as rain limited the racing action to just 20 laps. The field will attempt to run NASCAR’s biggest race of the year on Monday afternoon instead.
The president, joined by his wife Melania, called the most famous words in racing: “Gentleman, start your engines” – but was back on Airforce One by the time a second downpour called time on the race. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had led from pole position, but NASCAR doesn’t run on ovals in the rain and excitement soon turned to frustration in Florida as officials called for a postponement.