Malcolm Wilson has rebuked suggestions that Elfyn Evans‘ lead in Wales Rally GB is down only to the DMACK tyres, defending his driver’s dominant performance on the first full day of action as wholly merited.
Evans holds a 26.4 second lead over M-Sport team-mate Ott Tänak after the first seven stages of the rally, winning half of Friday’s stages while breaking away from the chasing pack.
His other team-mate Sébastien Ogier alluded to a tyre advantage for the Welshman by stating his target was to be the “best of the Michelin guys,” but team principal Wilson said it was more than just the rubber – unique to Evans’ entry in the primary WRC class – that had earned him the lead.
“We all know Elfyn’s potential and knew this could be a good event for him,” said Wilson. “For sure the tyre is working well, but it’s not just down to that and he has delivered a very strong drive today.
“He’s in a good position with nothing to lose – and he can go out there tomorrow and just focus on enjoying his home stages.”
Ogier himself also later admitted Evans had earned his place at the front of the pack, having capitulated 27.9 seconds to the Welshman over the course of the day’s 119 competitive kilometres.
“For sure Elfyn has had a lot of fun today,” he said. “We knew he could do well here and, even though the tyres are working well for him, it was still a very strong performance.
“No matter what tyres you have, you still have to drive the car and he deserves to be where he is tonight.”
Evans, Tänak and Ogier hold a remarkable 1-2-3 pattern for the M-Sport team, turning in a dominant performance between the trio despite needing only one car to reach the finish in any position to wrap-up the constructors’ title.
While Wilson was enthused to be in such a strong position, he urged caution amongst his Michelin-shod drivers.
“It doesn’t get much better than this. We’ve had a terrific day with great performances from all three drivers, but let’s not forget that there are two very difficult days to come.
“Once again, the Fiesta has shown great speed and we’ve proved that we can be competitive on all surfaces. To win all but one of the stages so far is fantastic.
“Ott and Sébastien have also delivered very strong performances but they have to keep their championship hopes in mind.”
In their current rally positions, Tänak would be able to push the title battle on to Wales by scoring four points more than Ogier in the rally-ending powerstage, but would also require victory and further powerstage points in Australia, with Ogier failing to score at all, to steal the title away from the reigning champion.
The only other title contender remaining, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, will be mathematically eliminated from title contention if the rally were to finish in the current order, even if he were to score maximum powerstage points.