Evans confident for competitive WRC2 start in Monte-Carlo

Elfyn Evans heads in to the 2016 season with a new challenge ahead of him; Despite taking a career highest second place along with another podium position, the decision has been made to more Evans to WRC2 duties as the M-Sport team look to develop him in to a championship challenger.

While it was announced that Evans will be taking part in a full season of the MSA British Rally Championship in a DMACK branded M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5, he will also be taking on some of the dates on the FIA World Rally Championship, beginning with the upcoming Rallye Monte-Carlo. We spoke to the Welshman to find out what we can expect from him this season.

TCF: You’ve competed in WRC2 before in a Ford Fiesta R5, how long do you feel it will take to get comfortable in the new car?

EE: It’s been more than two years since I last competed behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5, but the chassis and general handling are quite similar [to the Ford Fiesta RS WRC] so I can’t see it being a big issue. The power delivery will take a bit of getting used to, but I’m confident that I can get up to speed fairly quickly.

TCF: How much of a difference is there in driving an R5 and WRC car?

EE: The basics are actually very similar but the world rally car is a little more advanced with the paddle shift gear system and so on.

New look for 2016 as Evans heads back to WRC2 with M-Sport
New look for 2016 as Evans heads back to WRC2 with M-Sport – Credit: Vince Pettit

TCF: Previously you’ve taken a win and two podiums in WRC2, how do you rate your competition for the year and do you feel you can be on the podium from the start?

EE: I am sure that the class will be as competitive, if not more competitive, than recent years but with the experience I have I’m confident that we can be fighting at the top from the start.

TCF: Given the fact that conditions can change drastically in the middle of a stage how do you go about setting up your car for Monte Carlo?

EE: It is always a compromise so you would tend to lean towards a more compliant car. The biggest compromise is often with the tyres so the set-up becomes less vital in those situations.

TCF: Unlike circuit racing, rally routes constantly change, how do you use information and experience from previous years?

EE: Having a set of notes always helps, but with an event like Monte-Carlo you rely heavily on the weather reports and changes made by the gravel crew to suit the conditions. Even if we’re experiencing a brand new stage, past experience of the event can still give you a lot of information about the nature of the road and how it can change in various conditions.

Evans reached the podium in Corsica last year and will be looking to spray the champagne once again in 2016
Evans reached the podium in Corsica last year and will be looking to spray the champagne once again in 2016

TCF: You have a new co-driver for 2016, how long does it take to get comfortable with someone else reading pacenotes and how can you prepare before the rally?

EE: After working so closely with Dan over the last three years it’s inevitable that a new partnership will take time to perfect. Myself and Craig have already spent a lot of time together over the Christmas break – practising making pacenotes so that we can be prepared as possible – but there is only so much you can do away from competition.

TCF: Have you had much testing of the new car?

EE: Nothing yet, but we will be testing before Rallye Monte-Carlo*. It looks as though the guys have made some pretty big improvements since the last time I drove the car so I am looking forward to discovering that. [* Since we held this interview Evans has undertaken a pre-rally test]

TCF: Other than driving, how have you been preparing for the new season since Wales?

EE: We’ve been reviewing a lot of our strengths and weaknesses from 2015, which I hope will help further my development throughout the year.

TCF: What are your thoughts on the 2016 calendar and what rallies are you looking forward to the most?

EE: It’s a very busy calendar, but at the moment not all of our events have been confirmed. To be honest, I’m just looking forward to competing on as many rallies as possible!