Meirion Evans has scored his first major rally win of his career after taking the overall victory on the Dunoon Presents Argyll Rally in Scotland.
In doing so, he also gave the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 and Michelin Pilot Sport A tyre its first outright rally victory in the UK.
The inaugural sealed surface Argyll Rally, held over 13 spectacular closed road stages around the town of Dunoon, on the Cowal peninsula in the south of Argyll and Bute, was Meirion’s first rally outing since the Aarova Rally in Belgium in October last year.
Having been out of his Melvyn Evans Motorsport-run and The Scan Station-backed Polo GTI R5 for eight long months, the 25-year old Welshman naturally started cautiously – but by the end of the event, he and co-driver Jonathan Jackson were back to the pace they were competing at pre-lockdown, and the fastest crew on day two of the event.
With 120 drivers contesting the Mull Car Club organised event, which hosted a round of both the Scottish and Northern England Tarmacadam rally championships, the battle for Argyll Rally honours was closely fought. In fact, the final results were only confirmed after Freddie Milne/Patrick Walsh and David Wright/Paula Swinscoe (both in Ford Fiesta R5s) were each given a one-minute penalty for clipping a chicane.
With no such dramas to worry about, all Meirion could do was wait for the outcome of the enquiries – and when everything was finalised he could celebrate a fine victory; finishing 20 seconds ahead of second placed Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (Mini WRC), while Milne and Wright dropped to third and fourth respectively.
It was Meirion’s first major rally win, although he had won the Formula 1000 Junior Rally Championship section twice before – finishing first overall on the Glyn Memorial Junior Stages and Peter Lloyd Rallying Junior Stages in 2012, driving a Nissan Micra.
“It’s certainly nice to get my first major overall rally win under my belt, and hopefully it will open the door to many more in the future,” said Meirion.
“It was nice to do a rally again after such a long time – and once you got into the car and onto the stages the world just felt normal again. There was a lot of Covid-compliance stuff to adhere to outside the car, but once you were out on the stages everything felt exactly like it used to, which was wonderful!
“The stages were very tricky and technical. They weren’t particularly long, but they were busy – with very few straight sections, blind crests, jump and bumps. There was no margin for error whatsoever, so it was easy to get caught out if you weren’t concentrating one hundred per cent.
“The opening stage in particular was very narrow and I was far too cautious on that and pretty much all of the first leg. I made some small set up changes to the car after the overnight halt, mainly because it was bottoming out on the bumps and crashing up against the sump guard, and it immediately felt better. The harder you push the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 the better it responds and the easier it is to drive, so things began to click on day two.
“The new Michelin Pilot Sport A tyre was fantastic – we started conservatively but as the event went on, we had the confidence to switch from the soft to the medium compound for the very last loop of stages, which took everything to another level again. By the end of the event, it felt like we were back to where we were in terms of performance about eighteen months ago, when we were competing on a far more regular basis, so I was very pleased with that.
“It was certainly nice to come away from the Argyll Rally with a number of firsts – the first rally win in the UK for the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 and the new Michelin Pilot Sport A tyre along with my first major overall rally win. We were a little bit rusty on the first day, but we were fastest on day two and all-in-all I was pretty pleased with everything.”
Argyll Rally – top 10 finishers
1. Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)….52mins 29secs
2. Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (Mini WRC)….52mins 49secs
3. Freddie Milne/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta R5)….53 mins 12secs
4. David Wright/Paula Swinscoe (Ford Fiesta R5)….53mins 32secs
5. Jock Armstrong/Cameron Fair (Ford Fiesta)….54mins 58secs
6. John MacCrone/Stuart Loudon (Skoda Fabia R5)….55mins 00secs
7. Gareth Sayers/Gareth Gilchrist (Ford Fiesta R5)….55mins 10secs
8. Damian Toner/Denver Rafferty (Ford Escort Mk2)….55mins 20secs
9. Aidan Wray/Kieran McGrath (Ford Fiesta R5)….56mins 24secs
10. Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo)….56mins 49secs