The Cork 20 International Rally, the final stop of the 2019 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, saw Lampeter’s Meirion Evans take a career best result of second overall and with it his first maximum points haul in the ultra competitive series.
The two day, thirteen-stage event would see the crews tackle more than 200km of competitive action. Having contested the event three times previously, the event was the first time in the Championship that they could call on their previous experience. However, heavy rain in the lead up to the event and continuous rain storms throughout the weekend meant the experience counted for very little, having never contested these stages in anything but dry conditions.
Despite the conditions however, the Melvyn Evans Motorsport run pair would find themselves in second overall at the end of the opening loop of stages which included the gruelling Kilnamatra stage; the longest of the event and one of the most technical stages in the country.
As the rain continued in earnest, a switch to a new Michelin tyre for the next loop saw Evans and Jackson drop to fourth by the end of the next loop of stages, a repeat of the first; Evans admitting to “taking it too easy” on the new tyres that he had never used before, which were delivering the required grip in such tricky conditions. As they headed back to the overnight halt in Little Island, a solid podium position was there but with just 3.9 seconds separating them and second position, the fight was on for Day 2.
Fortunately for all concerned, Day 2 dawned dry and sunny, though small rain showers would persist – with 8 stages to go, anything could happen; and it did! As the overnight leader fell by the wayside on the day’s second test, the Skoda Fabia R5 pairing took their first fastest time of the event to remain less than five seconds behind what had now become the lead of the event. That was quickly followed up by their second fastest time, tied with the event leader as they headed into the days first service.
With their first Irish Tarmac Championship victory in their grasp, the pair opted to continue using the same approach into the final loop of stages, keeping the pressure on the eventual winner, without taking unnecessary risks in the tricky conditions, as the fastest time on the final stage would confirm. With a gap of more than 3 minutes behind them, the pair completed the final loop of stages to secure their first Irish Tarmac Championship victory and take second place overall – their best result on an International event to date. The result was an historic one, being the first non-Irish crew to win a round of the Irish Tarmac Championship for many years;
[This must have been one of the more demanding rallies of my career. The weather never settled all weekend which left the stages either wet or greasy and muddy-and the stages are naturally very challenging! It was a fantastic battle, although had it been dry, I think we could have used our prior knowledge to better effect. We’d never driven the Skoda in the Wet before this event and when it came to the wet stages, we had a tyre we’d never used on the car too. All in all, I think we coped well and the pace at the end of this year has been really promising. Yes, a win would have been nice but this was an important result for us. We took the battle to the end without taking massive risks and to finish an event this difficult fighting for the win without making mistakes was a nice indicator of where we’re at now we feel at home in the Skoda.]
The result in Cork would also see the pair clinch fourth overall in the Drivers and Co-Drivers Championships. The Irish Tarmac Championship has provided some of the toughest competition in R5 machinery anywhere in Europe and it also became a huge personal challenge at the seasons mid-point;
[It was a pretty tough first half to the year, we had some good pace but some technical issues hindered our results then obviously the events of Donegal where we lost such a close friend in Manus made things extra difficult. We always felt like we were in a good place in the car ourselves and it was nice for things to start to fall into place for us towards the end of the year with our results on the Ulster and the Cork 20. For me Rali Bae Ceredigion was a turning point, we held an early lead and a mistake we’d made in the notes meant we had a small off, but from that day it gave us a renewed belief in ourselves, the feeling I got with the car was the best I’ve had yet, everything started to click so it was really important for me to go to Cork to confirm it. Honestly, I never expected to finish my first year in this championship with a 3rd and a maximum score to my name, so thanks to everyone that made it possible for us to go out and show what we can do!]
Meirion and Jonathan would like to express their sincere thanks to those who have backed and supported them in any way during the 2019 season particularly; the whole Melvyn Evans Motorsport team, The Scan Station for their continuous backing, Michelin Tyres and to their families.