Evans Delivers For The Home Hordes
Autosport|November 02,2017

The fans flocked to Wales and local hero Elfyn Evans dominated, while Sebastien Ogier secured his fifth World Rally crown.

David Evans

Not since Sunday September 16, 2012 had a driver other than Sebastien Ogier led Wales Rally GB. Not since Friday November 22, 2001 had a British driver led their home round of the World Rally Championship.

Myherin, mid-morning last Friday and Elfyn Evans changed those records. But what about the big one? What about the fact that a local hadn’t sprayed the Sunday afternoon champagne on this rally since Richard Burns did 17 years ago? Evans was more than equal to correcting that wrong, too.

M-Sport enjoyed its own golden hour last Sunday. When Ott Tanak crossed the finish line on SS21 at 1250 in his Ford Fiesta, the Cumbrians ruled the world for the first time in 10 years. Thirteen minutes later, team-mate Ogier followed him and became only the second man in history to lift five world titles.

Ten minutes after that, Evans rounded off the most incredible Sunday lunchtime by becoming the fourth Briton to win his home round of the World Rally Championship.

The fairy tale was complete. The dream delivered. The delight etched into Evans’ face was hard to reconcile with the fella who was watching on the sidelines on this rally just 12 months ago.

A year ago, Elfyn didn’t know if he had a job. There was the chance of something. Or nothing. Now? Rally GB hero. Let’s have a look at the four days that changed everything for Evans and Dan Barritt.

Wales was full last weekend. There was no room at the inns and even less in the stages. Car parks? Forget it. Only the hardcore, the car sleepers, were guaranteed a place. The verges lining the road sections were the only option. But they were fraught with risk – the risk, that is, of losing your car for the rest of the day.

Alun Davies didn’t care. His mother’s SEAT Ibiza would be sacrificed if necessary. This hardest of hardcore rally fans from Newcastle Emlyn in southwest Wales was following the event four-up, complete with sleeping bags, a camping stove and a boot-load of Tesco value sausages.

His dedication was matched only by his determination not to be denied his chance to see one man. “Elfyn,” he said. “That’s why I’m here. He’s the boy, isn’t he?”

His voice trailed away, almost daring me to contradict him. Daring me to point to the fight for this year’s World Rally Championship or the most spectacular and fastest rally cars in the sport’s history. I didn’t dare.

“Actually, I came last year as well,” he added, referencing the fact that he doesn’t just come to follow Evans. “I’ve not missed one of these for years. I’m from down south [Wales], so don’t be telling everybody this, but this rally’s much better up here in the north.”

He wasn’t keen to be deterred, partly because he didn’t want to miss Elfyn and partly because he didn’t want to be around if the police arrived.

“They can have the car,” he said, pointing at the muddied, tired-looking SEAT parked neatly between one sign declaring the car parks full and another one outlining this as a ‘Tow-away zone’.

“I’m off. I’m not going to miss this. I’ll deal with my ma and tell her what’s happened to her car later.”

M-Sport cap pulled low, he was away, across the A470 and running towards the village of Aberangell. Heading for the hills,up through the woods and, miles later, a super-quick entry followed by a big drift through the following downhill right hander that was junction three of Dyfi.

Not long after he’d gone, the police did arrive. What, I asked, would they do about the cars? “Not much we can do, is there?” said the policeman with a smile. “There aren’t enough tow trucks in Wales to deal with this!”

Davies’ story was typical of thousands last week. Tens of thousands. Whether it was the cars, the championship or the boy from just up the road in Dinas Mawddwy, they came back in their droves.

And Evans delivered for them. His wasn’t always the most spectacular World Rally Car out there, but it was the fastest. And the one accompanied by the loudest cheers.

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