Evans secures maiden podium win

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By Olivier Ferret

26 April 2015 - 22:57
Evans secures maiden podium win

M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt secured their first FIA World Rally Championship podium at Rally Argentina today. The milestone achievement is thoroughly deserved and marks the next phase in Evans’ development as a driver.

The Welshman came to Argentina determined to show a vast improvement from this time twelve months ago, and he certainly achieved that. Combining near flawless consistency with flashes of speed, he and Barritt have truly proved their potential this weekend.

Showcasing his speed with two third fastest times through the opening stages, the Welshman then played the sensible game – consolidating his position through the trickier speed tests. The car-breaking route demanded respect, which Evans duly gave and exemplified the strength and reliability of the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

The podium provided a perfect farewell from the original Fiesta RS WRC and provides the M-Sport crew with a huge confidence boost ahead of Rally de Portugal where the new-evolution Fiesta makes its competitive debut.

Evans joined rally winner Kris Meeke on the podium, the first time two Brits have appeared there since Rally New Zealand in 2001 with the late greats – Colin McRae and Richard Burns. This weekend’s result has thus ushered in a new era of British talent at rallying’s highest league.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Ott Tänak started the event as he meant to go on – with a safe run through the opening speed tests. His strategy was paying dividend and he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder climbed as high as fourth overall by the end of SS3.

Unfortunately, the tough terrain demanded luck as well as caution and good fortune has not been on the Estonians’ side of late. Hitting a rock in the water splash two kilometres from the start of ‘Agua de Oro / Ascochinga (II)’ (SS4), they damaged the front-left wheel of their Fiesta RS WRC which ended any hope of a strong result.

Restarting under Rally 2 regulations, the duo focused on making it through the remaining stages unscathed and brought a valuable eight manufacturer points home for the team.

Tänak will now regroup ahead of the championship’s return to Europe where he’ll aim to take confidence from the new-evolution Fiesta.

Elfyn Evans (3rd) said:

“It’s been a crazy rally with so much drama so it feels great to have made it through with such a positive result. We didn’t come here expecting a podium, so it really is a fantastic feeling which probably hasn’t quite sunk in yet!

“Our plan was to air on the side of caution. We wanted to improve on last year, but we also wanted a mistake-free run which seems to have been the best strategy. The team provided me with an absolutely perfect car from start to finish, and we are here at the end because of that.

“I have to say hats off to Kris [Meeke] and Paul [Nagle] too. They did an absolutely incredible job this weekend. They were the fastest crew from the start and really controlled it from there on in. It’s a great result for them, and a great result for British rallying.”

Ott Tänak (11th) said:

“We had a strategy at the start of the rally to be safe and not to go too high with the speed. We managed the first stages really well, but then we got caught out with a rock in the water splash which was really unfortunate.

“The next day was really tough. We were really disappointed and desperately wanted to make it to the finish so we had to take it steady and regain the confidence step by step. On roads like this you never know what is going to be around the corner so it was really important for us to do that.

“Today we tried to push a bit more on the second pass of ‘El Condor’ (SS12) – just to see if the pace was still there – and we managed to set a pretty good time without pushing to the maximum so that was good.

“It looks positive for Portugal. We will have the new car and a good test beforehand so I just need to pull everything together and work on myself to ensure that we can have a good result.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It’s an historic event for Elfyn [Evans]. It’s only his second season and he’s already secured his first podium! The way he approached this event was very impressive. He was able to show speed, but he also knows when to control it – a rare talent in such a young and inexperienced driver.

“His result this weekend also promotes him into fourth place in the championship and I think that he should be extremely pleased with the job he has done. It certainly bodes well for Portugal when we launch the new car, and I am confident that we can start to challenge for podiums more consistently as the season goes on.

“As for Ott [Tänak], he has had another difficult weekend but I am sure that he can pick himself up. We all know how excited he is about the new car and I hope that will give him the boost he needs.”

M-SPORT FIESTAS DOMINATE WRC2

M-Sport continue to dominate the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier support series. With the top four finishers all behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta, M-Sport’s range of rally cars continue to prove both competitive and reliable.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (1st WRC 2) said:

“I am really happy with this victory. We had a really good strategy coming to this event and I knew that if we managed to finish without any mistakes then we would be able to secure a really strong result. It’s great to be back on the top step of the podium and I hope that we can continue like this.”

Yurii Protasov (4th WRC 2) said:

“I have been really happy with our speed and with the partnership between me and Pavlo [Cherepin, co-driver] this weekend. I think that we have worked really well together and shown how fast we can be. It was just a shame that we got such a harsh penalty on Friday. Without that, I am sure we could have fought back.”

Nicolas Fuchs (DNF):

Unfortunately, Fuchs went off the road on the final speed test (SS12) and damaged the suspension of his Ford Fiesta R5.

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It is fantastic to see M-Sport drivers dominating the WRC 2 category once again. It proves not only the competitiveness of the Fiesta, but also the strength. There were some really rough stages this weekend, and we came away with the top four positions.”

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