It’s the sort of call every young driver aiming for a top seat in the World Rally Championship dreams of: “Something’s come up, one of our cars is free, would you like to drive it?”
Step forward Welsh youngster Elfyn Evans who got the nod from M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson late last week to drive the squad’s WRC-spec Qatar Ford Fiesta this weekend in Sardinia after team regular Nasser Al Attiyah withdrew from the event.
So we thought we’d better sit 24-year-old Evans down and asked him some questions.
First, let’s get this straight. We are absolutely NOT going to as: “Are you Britain’s best bet of WRC glory since the days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns?”
It would be as predictable as it is stupid. But are you?
I don’t think trying to be a hero this weekend is going to earn me any brownie points. Looking at the stages it’ll probably end in disaster! But of course one day I want to achieve the same sorts of results as they did.
Don’t call me Elvis
Elfyn is a Welsh name meaning people from neighbouring parts of Britain can’t pronounce it correctly. You ought to hear them try some of the names of the Wales Rally GB stages! So let’s get it straight – it’s not Effin, it’s not El-fin and it’s not even Elvis. It’s El-vin.
I’ve grown up around the sport. I learnt to drive when I was eight.
So who are you?
My father Gwyndaf was British champion in 1996 and did some WRC events with Ford and SEAT so I’ve grown up around the sport. I learnt to drive when I was eight, but my first rally was in a 1-litre Nissan Micra when I was 17. I’ve worked my way through the ranks, finished second in the British championship, won the WRC Academy last year and then a shoot-out which got me a WRC2 programme with M-Sport this year. But just a few days ago I got the call to drive the team’s WRC Fiesta here in Sardinia.
How did you find out?
I was doing shakedown runs on a PR day for M-Sport in its new R5 Fiesta. Malcolm came over and told me the news. It was a bit of a shock but then I had to get back in the car and continue doing passenger rides.
Suddenly it’s Ogier, Latvala, Ostberg et al you’re up against…
For sure it’ll be a big challenge. I’m new to the car and Sardinia and it’s my first time working with Giovanni Bernacchini (Al Attiyah’s co-driver). Before this week we’d only ever said “hello” to each other! It’s a fact he’s speaking English pace notes with an Italian accent and there were some difficulties to start with on the mid-week recce…
How quickly can you acclimatise to a 300bhp WRC car?
It’s massive. I drove the WRC2 Fiesta in Portugal but there’s still quite a difference in power. Last year I was in a 170bhp Fiesta in the Academy with two-wheel-drive! Now I’ve got nearly double the power and four-wheel-drive. It’s going to take time to adjust.
Are there lots of expectations because of your father?
When I started out there was some pressure to perform well and to be fast but as the years have gone by I’ve put more pressure on myself than anyone else. Dad didn’t quite get his big break in WRC but having his experience and knowledge to lean on certainly doesn’t do any harm.