Evans advances in Argentina
"Concentrating on our own rally"
Elfyn Evans has emerged from a dramatic opening day at Rally Argentina in fourth place overall. Unfortunately, Mikko Hirvonen became one of numerous drivers to fall foul of the difficult conditions and was forced to make an untimely exit on SS2.
The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has always demanded precision driving and near-perfect concentration – a feature which makes it one of the most daunting events of the year.
As the action reconvened in the Punilla Valley north of Carlos Villa Paz, this year’s outing proved to be no exception. There may have only been four stages to contend with, but the technical nature of ‘Santa Catalina / La Pampa’ combined with the mammoth 51.88 kilometres of ‘Ascochinga / Agua de Oro’ meant that merely making it through the day was an accomplishment in itself.
Using the first pass as a high speed recce, Evans did just that. There are few more challenging tasks for a fledging driver and the Welshman took to the Argentine stages with real maturity – guided, as ever, by the expertise of his fellow Briton and co-driver, Daniel Barritt.
Fighting the temptation to show his true pace behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the youngster kept his mind on the job in hand – making it through all of the stages unscathed and gaining the vital knowledge and experience required to progress at this level.
Despite holding back, the Welshman improved his pace over the afternoon loop – reducing the gap to the leaders and proving that his cautious approach could reap rewards on what is first and foremost a finishers’ rally.
Unfortunately, there was less good fortune for Hirvonen as the Finn made an uncharacteristic mistake seven kilometres into the first pass of ‘Santa Catalina / La Pampa’ (SS2).
Missing a corner, the popular M-Sport driver hit a concrete wall on the outside of a tight left-hand corner – damaging the front and rear right suspension of his Fiesta RS WRC and signalling an untimely end to what could have been another strong result.
Directly after the incident, Hirvonen commented that ‘mechanics can sometimes do miracles’, and the M-Sport team did not disappoint. Stripping the Fiesta down to its shell, the team even repaired a section of rollcage to ensure their man could be back in the fight tomorrow.
Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“It’s been a very difficult day to be honest. The stages are very tricky and it’s been fairly rough in places. We’ve been very cautious all day and it’s been a bit frustrating at times, but when you look at the retirement list it was definitely the right course of action.
“We’re not paying too much attention to the result, that’s not our aim this weekend. Tomorrow will just be more of the same – concentrating on our own rally and our own pace to make sure we get as much experience of these challenging stages as possible.”
Mikko Hirvonen (19th) said:
“I made a mistake myself. I don’t think that I have ever missed a corner like that. There was a really short, flat-right and somehow I missed the whole corner. I thought it was flat-out, but obviously it was not. There was only a 30 metre straight after that into a very tight left-hander and I was just carrying way too much speed. There was no way I could stop for the corner. There was a concrete wall on the outside; we hit that and did a lot of damage to the car. A big mistake from my side.
“I need to say a huge thanks to the mechanics for the great job they did to repair the car. Thanks to them, we can definitely be back on the pace tomorrow. These things do happen so it’s not going to get me down and make me go any slower. We’ll go flat out, try to get back in the points, and see what we can do in the Power Stage.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Rally Argentina is certainly the toughest event in the championship at the moment and it’s been a long time since we have seen so many retirements on the first day. With that in mind, Elfyn [Evans] has done a very good job. He’s done exactly what the team asked for him, and it’s paying reward.
“Mikko [Hirvonen] rarely makes a mistake so this morning was really unfortunate. That said, the mechanics have done a fantastic job – even repairing a section of the rollcage – to ensure he can be back in the fight tomorrow. He’s not going to let today get him down, and he has a really good chance of making it back into a points paying position.”
add_circle Breaking news: Sordo secures Italian double
More on WRC