Evans powers to career best
"It’s been a great weekend for us"
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt have completed Rallye Deutschland with their best ever performance in the FIA World Rally Championship – powering their Ford Fiesta RS WRC to fourth place and their first ever stage win.
Evans had been locked in an intense battle with team mate Mikko Hirvonen for much of the event, but ultimately, it was the sheer determination of the young Welshman that tipped the scale.
Making the most significant step in his development to date, Evans showed real class behind the wheel. Outpacing his significantly more experienced rivals, the M-Sport man delivered one of the rally’s most stand-out performances.
A mature drive was topped off in spectacular style. Never out of the top-three on each of today’s four speed tests, Evans also secured maximum points with the fastest time through the points-paying Power Stage. The Welshman even had the pace to challenge for the podium – just five seconds shy come the end of the event.
Most importantly however, he is clearly identifying the areas where he can further improve. Analytical in his approach, Evans is always focussed on the bigger picture and there is certainly more to come from this talented youngster.
Of course Hirvonen wasn’t going to let his team mate get away without a fight. Despite struggling with a set-up that was slightly too soft for the mud-strewn morning loop, the Finn reacted to Evans’ pace with the fastest time through the second pass of Dhrontal (SS17).
Having overshot a junction on the final stage (SS18), it wasn’t quite enough and he had to settle for fifth place and an additional point for the third fastest time through the Power Stage (SS18).
Having regained their fighting spirit, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen now head to Rally Australia – a favoured hunting ground – with their confidence high and a real determination to further prove their potential.
Thanks to a strong performance from both M-Sport men, the team is just 10 points shy of second place in the manufacturers’ championship.
Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“It’s been a great weekend for us. To take our first stage win was really nice and the fourth place was something we would definitely have taken at the start of the rally.
“We weren’t too far away from Andreas [Mikkelsen, third place] at the end either, but it wasn’t our objective to push for the maximum result this weekend. It was more about learning the characteristics of the car on these stages and getting round safely, and I think we managed to do that.
“The whole weekend has been absolutely fantastic. The car has been so much fun to drive, even in the tricky conditions. We’ve been there or there abouts on the set-up and the tyre choice all weekend and the end result is a great one for the team.
“It always gives you a little boost when you manage to beat your team mate. Mikko [Hirvonen] didn’t make it easy and I’m sure he’ll be on the pace in Australia. But hopefully this won’t be the last time we give him a run for his money this year!”
Mikko Hirvonen (5th) said:
“I tried to tease Elfyn [Evans] a little bit before the last few stages – telling him that I was coming for him – but he drove really well and he’s also proved that he can keep his head under pressure. It was a really good job from him today.
“It wasn’t so bad for us. When everything worked well, we weren’t too far behind the others. It was really close, we just need a little bit more and to make sure that we have the right set-up for the right conditions.
“All in all, this has been a pretty good event for us, and I’m really looking forward to Australia now.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Elfyn’s [Evans] performance this weekend has probably been the most encouraging result that I have seen from any young driver. If you look at what he’s done with the experience he has, it’s been a very special result.
“There’s a steely determination there and he’s very analytical about everything he does. He’s always finding places where he can improve and go faster; and when he’s telling you that it’s honest and genuine so you know that there is room for improvement. That sends out a strong message to me that there’s much more to come.
“I think Mikko’s [Hirvonen] confidence was back this weekend too. If you look at it relatively, he performed better here than he did in Finland and he certainly had the fighting spirit when trading times with Elfyn.
“With two cars in the top-five – and as we’re now only 10 points behind second in the manufacturers’ championship – we go away from this event with what has been a very positive result.”
ADDITIONAL M-SPORT WRC DRIVERS
Dennis Kuipers (8th) said:
“It’s been a really tricky and difficult event but I’m happy with the job we have done this weekend. We’ve been away from the WRC for some time and it took a while to get the rhythm back but the pace, and the driving, were getting better and better and I’m really looking forward to being back for Rallye de France.”
Yuriy Protasov (11th) said:
“It’s been a challenging rally with some very difficult conditions, so I am really happy to have finished my first event in a world rally car. We have learnt so much this weekend and I’m really looking forward to taking the next step at this level. It’s been so much fun to drive this car and I’m very happy to have finished and to have gained the experience.”
M-Sport’s domination of the WRC 2 category continued as Pontus Tidemand piloted his Ford Fiesta R5 to a hard-fought victory on the event’s final speed test.
The Swede had taken control of the series yesterday afternoon, but a puncture on the final stage cost him two minutes and dropped him down to fourth. As the competitors embarked on the final day of competition, Tidemand refused to give up the fight and put in a tremendous performance. Setting the fastest time on all four stages, he claimed a dramatic and well-deserved victory on the final split.
Drive DMACK’s Ott Tanak continued the Fiesta R5’s success story in a strong second place and M-Sport’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars set the fastest time on all but two of the 18 stages.
Pontus Tidemand, 2013 FIA Junior World Champion (1st) said:
“It’s been a great fight from the very first stage and to take the win feels absolutely fantastic. I want to say a big thanks to M-Sport for giving me such a good car, to Emil [Axelsson, co-driver] who always does an amazing job, to all my sponsors, to my management, EVEN Rally, who push really hard and to Tommy Andersson who has supported me for such a long time.
“We just went as fast as we could. We had some moments, but that’s part of the game and we knew if we wanted to go for it, it would not be without some risks. It’s a great feeling. From the very first stage I felt like we could do well and I think this has probably been my best ever performance in rally.”
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It was a very impressive fight-back from Pontus [Tidemand] today. Having lost two minutes yesterday, he didn’t let the pressure get to him at all. He came back focused and determined and claimed the win on the very last stage – a very encouraging drive on what is only his second outing in the Ford Fiesta R5.
“He’s used his experience from last year’s Junior World Rally Championship to full effect and produced a near-perfect transition to the next level. Both he and Elfyn have proven that the Ford ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ is producing a good stream of talent.”
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