Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt secured their second podium of the season as well as M-Sport’s third top-three finish and best result of the year.
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt secured a career-best FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) result by finishing an outstanding second overall at this weekend’s Tour de Corse Rallye de France.
This was the Brits first encounter with the island’s unique roads, but they performed superbly – securing their second podium of the season as well as M-Sport’s third top-three finish and best result of the year.
It was a coming of age performance from the young Welshman who stormed into the lead of the rally on the opening day.
The speed tests had been hammered by heavy storms and the challenging conditions knocked the leading drivers off their rhythm – but not Evans. Hooking up the perfect stage, he claimed a massive stage victory some 30 seconds faster than his rivals.
The pairing continued to hold the lead at Saturday’s midday service, but a resurgent Jari-Matti Latvala could not be halted and the Brits were relegated to second place – albeit a mere two seconds adrift of the lead.
Embarking on the final and longest day of competition, strategy was a difficult call with the top teams all opting for various configurations of Michelin’s Pilot Sport tyre.
Evans was the only man to select three soft and three hard compound tyres – the most comprehensive way of having the right tyres for the right conditions and hoped that approach would allow him to put pressure on Latvala through the drying sections.
Ultimately however, experience proved pivotal and the Finn was able to maximise his confidence through the varying levels of grip.
Despite having to concede the victory, Evans and Barritt put in a stunning performance – silencing their critics and proving that they have all of the speed, talent and determination to challenge the world’s best.
In the sister Fiesta RS WRC, it was a difficult weekend for Ott Tänak and co-driver Raigo Mõlder. The Estonians have limited experience of such challenging conditions and struggled to find their pace through the changing conditions.
But the M-Sport man showed flashes of potential today. Taking confidence from the drier conditions through the opening split of “Sotta – Chialza” (SS7), he and Mõlder were faster then both Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville – asphalt specialists and previous Tour de Corse victors.
Ending the event in 10th place overall, Tänak will be looking forward to the dry, circuit-like asphalt and familiar gravel of RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada later this month.
To top off a fantastic weekend for the M-Sport team, the Ford Fiesta was performing at the highest level throughout the field. In the WRC 2 category, victory went to Frenchman Julien Maurin – a popular home win for the French event and another top step of the podium for the Ford Fiesta RRC.
Elfyn Evans (2nd)
“I think it’s fair to say that it’s been one hell of a week for Welsh sport! To see the Welsh rugby team doing so well, and then my result here, it’s just a great achievement and I really hope that I did the boys back home proud.
“Needless to say we’re delighted with the result. Coming here for the first time and seeing how tough the conditions were going to be, I never imagined that we’d be leading the rally by such a strong margin.
“It was a bit of a nice surprise to say the least, and I’m glad that we were able to bring home such a strong result for the team because they really do deserve it. We have done a lot of work since Germany and it’s just great to see that it all paid off.
“A big thanks to the team and also to the gravel crew who did a fantastic job all weekend. And thanks also to everyone who has been sending in their messages of support. I haven’t read them all yet, but I will certainly find time to do that before Spain!”
Ott Tänak (10th)
“It has been a really tricky weekend for us. Of course we know that it was possible to go fast as Elfyn [Evans] secured a fantastic result for the team but we just didn’t have the confidence to perform at that level.
“When the stages were dry, they were actually really nice to drive and I think that we had quite a good rhythm. We showed flashes of what we could have achieved were the conditions a little more consistent, but we still have a lot more to learn in these situations.
“I’m sure that will come, but for now, I’m just really looking forward to Spain – to being back on gravel and experiencing what will hopefully be some more consistent Tarmac stages!”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE
“We have witnessed an absolutely stunning drive from Elfyn [Evans] this weekend. Not only has he secured his best result to date, but also his second podium of the year as well as the team’s best result of the season.
“To say that he and the team deserve this result is a real understatement. After the disappointment of Australia, everyone really pulled together and worked extremely hard. It really is fantastic to see all that hard work yielding a result as impressive as this one – which puts us right back in the fight for second place in the manufacturers’ championship.
“It was also great to see the Ford Fiesta performing so well across the field – Julien Maurin securing the top-step of the podium in the WRC 2 series. I feel as though we really have created a ladder of opportunity which allows drivers to excel at all levels of the sport, and that is extremely rewarding indeed.”
M-Sport World Rally Team