Meirion Evans hasn’t contested a rally since the beginning of February, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic putting the brakes on motorsport events around the world. But his unplanned long and enforced break will come to an end later this month, when he contests the Aarova Rally in Belgium on Sunday 11 October.
The 25-year old driver was all set to challenge for the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship title this year – but the series was cancelled after he’d finished fourth on the opening round, the Galway International Rally.
Since then, Meirion has only conducted some high-speed demonstration runs at the Race Retro event at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, and more recently gave the new The Scan Station-backed Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 that he’ll drive in Belgium the very briefest of shakedown tests in west Wales.
Returning to full blown competition after such a long lay-off won’t be easy. His third start in Belgium (and his first for three years) won’t be made any easier either by the fact that his regular co-driver, Jonathan Jackson, is unable to contest the event. So, for the first time in seven years, Meirion will share the car with somebody else; and he’s drafted in the experienced navigator Michael Gilbey for the Aarova Rally.
“I haven’t competed in a rally for over eight months now, so I didn’t want to go into another winter break without doing an event or two and then face starting the 2021 season having been out of the car for over a year,” said Meirion.
“We were hoping rallying would restart in some shape or form at home or in Ireland, and we have also been monitoring the situation very closely further afield. It’s difficult to plan too far ahead, but it looks like we’re finally good to go to the Aarova Rally.
“It’s only a sixty mile one day event, so we’ll keep within our own team bubble as much as we can and spend as little time out of the UK as possible.
“For once, I won’t be too bothered about a result. We obviously want to do the best we can, you always do, but it’s more a case of shaking off the cobwebs and starting our preparation for what we hope will be a full season in 2021.
“The Aarova Rally will only be my third rally in Belgium and my first in a R5 car, so the aim will be to complete all the stage miles and get to the finish. After all, I’ll be racing against guys who are battling for the FIA European Rally Trophy and the Belgian Rally Championship titles, so they’ll be pushing hard right from the start, and that’s not a fight that we’re involved in.
“That said, we’re not going to Belgium to drive slowly – so we’ll be experimenting with the new car’s set-up and seeing just how close we can get to the best local drivers, without taking any risks.
“After such a long time, I’m just happy to be getting back out in a rally car. The first couple of stage miles might feel a bit strange, but I’m confident I’ll be able to remember what to do!”
The Aarova Rally takes place on Sunday 11 October and is based in the East Flanders town of Oudenaarde, which is best known for its Oud Bruin (Old Brown) beer, made by the famous Liefmans Brewery. The event starts at 09.10 and finishes at 17.20 – after all 10 asphalt stages, totalling 57.23 miles (92.11kms), have been completed.