Elfyn Evans: “I’m on top of the world after Wales Rally GB win!”
“A lot of people were asking me whether or not winning Wales Rally GB had sunk in when I got to the finish in Llandudno on Sunday.
“I’m not really sure. Dan [Barritt, co-driver] and I were talking about this on the way back from the last stage. We know we’ve won this event, but what will take time to sink in is that we’ve won our home round of the World Rally Championship; when you look at the list of names [of previous winners], you really think a bit more about it.
“The rally was actually very straightforward for Dan and me. We’d seen in Argentina and in some other places earlier this year that, in the right conditions, our tyres would work really well. Given the cool, damp conditions that normally come in Wales, we knew the rubber would be in with a good chance.
“We went to shakedown on Thursday, set a good time there and after that we started to think, ‘OK, it might be possible to do something’.
“From Friday morning onwards, I took everything stage-by-stage. I didn’t let myself think ahead, it was all about focusing on what was right in front of us. Obviously, as the stages started to count down that got a bit more tricky…
“Friday morning was good, it went well and we got into the lead. But the sunny weather was starting to dry the roads a bit in the afternoon. What we needed was some rain and cloud cover on Saturday. And we got it. After that, the priority was making the tyres last. We took a bit of a gamble and went with the soft compound, which gave us plenty of grip, but we really had to manage the life of the tyre for almost 70 miles of stages.
“I was conscious coming out of corners, I had to be smooth with the throttle. The roads in Dyfi and Gartheiniog, particularly on the second pass, can polish up a fair bit. And I knew, if they were to dry out as well, they could be quite abrasive and hard on the tyres. The second run of those two was really crucial for the result. It would have been easy to drop time and suddenly we’d have been right back into the thick of the fight again.
“Fortunately, everything worked well. It was pretty marginal, but we came through with a good lead.
“All through the event, it was in my head what we were doing, the fact that we were leading this rally. But it wasn’t something that was really worrying me. I wasn’t thinking: ‘We could win this!’. I was thinking of it much more in terms of managing the gap and the situation.
“I’d kept telling myself over and over that this was just another rally and, to be honest, in the end I think I might have said that a bit too much. When we got to the final day with a decent gap, it was almost a bit too normal – but it can be like that when you’re not in the thick of a really big fight.
“Having said that, there was nothing normal about the fog in Aberhirnant on Saturday night. That was horrendous. Dan and I worked so hard in that stage; when you’re in the fog you’ve got no idea how much time you are gaining or losing over your rivals; it’s just about doing what you can do and not getting too excited about things.
“The final day was fairly straightforward for us. Like Friday and Saturday, there were so many people out there, cheering us on. That’s something I’ve never experienced before, never. They were even cheering for Dan – and he’s not even Welsh!
“I’ve got to say a very big thank you to all the marshals who put so much into this event and, of course, the spectators. A group of people got together and made a corner for me in the Myherin stage. I didn’t have a second to look as we went through Elfyn’s Corner, but Dan glanced up and said it was unbelievable. That was nice.
“Dan and I winning the event was just one part of what was a pretty unbelievable weekend for M-Sport. Being part of the team that won the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ [for Sébastien Ogier] championships is fantastic. I have so many people, so many family, friends and, of course everybody at M-Sport, to thank for what we’ve achieved on this rally.
“Now we have to look forward and see what the future brings.”
Elfyn Evans was talking to David Evans.
Photography courtesy of Wales Rally GB, lead image by Ben Miles