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.
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.
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!