Elfyn Evans combined a marked increase in speed with a controlled and mature drive.
There was an encouraging performance from M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans as Rally Italia Sardegna came to a close today. Finishing in a strong fifth place, the Welshman was propelled up the drivers’ standings from eighth to sixth.
In what has been his best performance of the year, Evans combined a marked increase in speed with a controlled and mature drive. Trading stage times with the rally leaders during Friday’s technical stages, the M-Sport man came out fighting – just 0.3 seconds per kilometre adrift of the leader on the opening speed test (SS2).
Adopting a more cautious approach to conserve his position throughout Saturday’s challenge, the youngster continued to impress. As others were caught out by the complex nature of the stages, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt kept their Ford Fiesta RS WRC well clear of trouble to climb into a comfortable top-five position.
Embarking on the rally’s final leg, Evans continued his impressive performance. Following a steady start to the unfamiliar stages, the youngster continued to up his pace considerably with a fourth fastest time through the abrasive Tergu-Osilo stage (SS16).
Developing quickly, the Welshman’s dedication and analytical approach has all the makings of a top-class driver and this weekend’s result marks another significant milestone in what is becoming a highly impressive debut.
When Evans took to a world rally car for the first time at last year’s Rally Italia Sardegna, he produced one of the best debuts in history with sixth place – 2.3 seconds per kilometre off the leaders and 11 minutes adrift of first place. This year, he has climbed a place to fifth but only 0.7 seconds per kilometre adrift of the leaders and four minutes shy of the overall winner.
Having proved he has the speed and the reliability, Evans will now turn his attention to consistency – his ultimate goal being to maintain his proven speed throughout the course of an entire rally weekend.
Elfyn Evans (5th): “There are a lot of positives to take from this weekend. We showed good speed at times and we’ve managed to run a clean event with no mistakes and no dramas at all. The car has been absolutely perfect all weekend, so all in all a very productive weekend.
“Our next target will be to maintain the gap to the leaders throughout an entire weekend. Poland is going to be another new event for us so we’ll need to approach that with the aim of gaining as much experience as possible. Finland too will provide another steep learning curve as we haven’t had chance to complete the full rally in a four-wheel-drive car.
“That said I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming events. We’ve made some good progress this weekend and I’m encouraged to continue that trend as the season continues.”
Malcolm Wilson OBE - Team Principal: “We’ve seen another vital step in Elfyn’s [Evans] learning process this weekend and another strong result which sees him climb from eighth to sixth in the drivers’ championship. I’ve been very impressed with his maturity and he can be very pleased with the job he has done this weekend.
“He’s given himself a positive base to build on as the season progresses and it will be interesting to see how he fares in Poland. It will be a new event for the majority of the field, and that will give him a good measure of where he is and where he can make further improvements.”