Elfyn Evans had been locked in an intense battle with team mate Mikko Hirvonen.
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt have completed Rallye Deutschland with their best ever performance in the FIA World Rally Championship – powering their Ford Fiesta RS WRC to fourth place and their first ever stage win.
Evans had been locked in an intense battle with team mate Mikko Hirvonen for much of the event, but ultimately, it was the sheer determination of the young Welshman that tipped the scale.
Making the most significant step in his development to date, Evans showed real class behind the wheel. Outpacing his significantly more experienced rivals, the M-Sport man delivered one of the rally’s most stand-out performances.
The whole weekend has been absolutely fantastic.
A mature drive was topped off in spectacular style. Never out of the top-three on each of today’s four speed tests, Evans also secured maximum points with the fastest time through the points-paying Power Stage. The Welshman even had the pace to challenge for the podium – just five seconds shy come the end of the event.
Most importantly however, he is clearly identifying the areas where he can further improve. Analytical in his approach, Evans is always focussed on the bigger picture and there is certainly more to come from this talented youngster.
Of course Hirvonen wasn’t going to let his team mate get away without a fight. Despite struggling with a set-up that was slightly too soft for the mud-strewn morning loop, the Finn reacted to Evans’ pace with the fastest time through the second pass of Dhrontal (SS17).
Having overshot a junction on the final stage (SS18), it wasn’t quite enough and he had to settle for fifth place and an additional point for the third fastest time through the Power Stage (SS18).
Having regained their fighting spirit, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen now head to Rally Australia – a favoured hunting ground – with their confidence high and a real determination to further prove their potential.
Thanks to a strong performance from both M-Sport men, the team is just 10 points shy of second place in the manufacturers’ championship.
Elfyn Evans (4th) said: “It’s been a great weekend for us. To take our first stage win was really nice and the fourth place was something we would definitely have taken at the start of the rally.
“We weren’t too far away from Andreas [Mikkelsen, third place] at the end either, but it wasn’t our objective to push for the maximum result this weekend. It was more about learning the characteristics of the car on these stages and getting round safely, and I think we managed to do that.
“The whole weekend has been absolutely fantastic. The car has been so much fun to drive, even in the tricky conditions. We’ve been there or there abouts on the set-up and the tyre choice all weekend and the end result is a great one for the team.
“It always gives you a little boost when you manage to beat your team mate. Mikko [Hirvonen] didn’t make it easy and I’m sure he’ll be on the pace in Australia. But hopefully this won’t be the last time we give him a run for his money this year!”
Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said: “I tried to tease Elfyn [Evans] a little bit before the last few stages – telling him that I was coming for him – but he drove really well and he’s also proved that he can keep his head under pressure. It was a really good job from him today.
“It wasn’t so bad for us. When everything worked well, we weren’t too far behind the others. It was really close, we just need a little bit more and to make sure that we have the right set-up for the right conditions.
“All in all, this has been a pretty good event for us, and I’m really looking forward to Australia now.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “Elfyn’s [Evans] performance this weekend has probably been the most encouraging result that I have seen from any young driver. If you look at what he’s done with the experience he has, it’s been a very special result.
“There’s a steely determination there and he’s very analytical about everything he does. He’s always finding places where he can improve and go faster; and when he’s telling you that it’s honest and genuine so you know that there is room for improvement. That sends out a strong message to me that there’s much more to come.
“I think Mikko’s [Hirvonen] confidence was back this weekend too. If you look at it relatively, he performed better here than he did in Finland and he certainly had the fighting spirit when trading times with Elfyn.
“With two cars in the top-five – and as we’re now only 10 points behind second in the manufacturers’ championship – we go away from this event with what has been a very positive result.”
Additional M-Sport WRC drivers
Dennis Kuipers (8th) said: “It’s been a really tricky and difficult event but I’m happy with the job we have done this weekend. We’ve been away from the WRC for some time and it took a while to get the rhythm back but the pace, and the driving, were getting better and better and I’m really looking forward to being back for Rallye de France.”
Yuriy Protasov (11th) said: “It’s been a challenging rally with some very difficult conditions, so I am really happy to have finished my first event in a world rally car. We have learnt so much this weekend and I’m really looking forward to taking the next step at this level. It’s been so much fun to drive this car and I’m very happy to have finished and to have gained the experience.”
M-Sport World Rally Team