Evans rounds off British Rally Championship season with a tale of two halves.
Twenty two year old Meirion Evans rounded off his second season in the Prestone MSA British Junior Rally Championship with another podium finish on the Isle of Man – but not before a dramatic event at the Ulster Rally.
A freak downpour during the very first stage of the Londonderry based event, making up round 6 of the competitive series, caught the young Lampeter driver out; making contact with a telegraph pole just over halfway into the opening test.
Miraculously, the Melvyn Evans Motorsport ran Peugeot 208 R2 emerged from the now drying stage with no mechanical damage, allowing Evans and co-driver Jonathan Jackson to complete the leg; continuing to learn their French machine on the treacherous Irish lanes.
Day two dawned bright, but damp with the West Wales Rally Spares, Samco Sport, Michelin and Race and Rally NI backed crew emerging from the opening two stages a lot happier with their performance, building up the confidence which had been lacking on tarmac at the previous round.
However, the efforts from the whole team were in vain just one stage later. After hitting a damp patch with their slick tyres, the car became beached on a hedge; undamaged but going no further – a bitter pill to swallow for the young crew.
Fast forward four weeks and the crew arrived on the Isle of Man for rounds 7 and 8 of the Championship – the deciding final rounds! Now out of contention for the overall championship, Evans arrived on the island with the aim to gain the all-important miles on tarmac and re-discover the confidence that had been lacking since June’s Ypres Rally.
Despite being caught out in yet another freak downpour on the events second stage, the only crew in the hotly contest Junior category to do so, the pair emerged from the short opening night pleased with their personal performances – but eager to make further progress with two full days of competition remaining.
Day two would see the pair tackle 11 stages across two legs and, despite slowing for the accident of another crew on the very first stage of the day, Evans would take fastest time on stage 11 – a sure sign of the progress being made inside the car.
The event would conclude with the aptly named ‘Classic’ stage – running down the spine of the island before finishing on the infamous Isle of Man TT course. Heading into the closing test, Evans and Jackson lay just six tenths of a second behind their nearest rival to take the final podium position.
Despite brake problems five miles from the end of the thirteen-mile stage, the pair took more than fourteen seconds from their rival to snatch the final podium position on the final stage of the season – just reward for their determination throughout the season;
“Since the championship made the switch to tarmac, we’ve struggled a bit to find the speed we know we’re capable of. I know we’re not quite there yet but we’ve definitely made steps forward and we’ve learnt exactly which areas we’re losing time and where we need to improve going forward. We’ve been dealt a few blows over the last couple of rounds, which may have cost us but for the Manx-we decided to focus on our own performance. I feel if it wasn’t for getting caught out in a downpour on stage 2 we could have come away with two podiums.
There’s nothing planned for the remainder of the year yet, and we already have an idea of where we want to go next year. However It will be nice to get some miles in over the next few months be it competitively or not, especially on tarmac so we can work on what we need to which will hopefully see us back to our best next year!”
Meirion and Jonathan would like to thank West Wales Rally Spares, Samco Sport, Michelin, Race and Rally NI, JD Tyres, GMF for their support throughout 2017 and to Melvyn Evans Motorsport for providing a faultless car.
On Board Video – Isle Of Man
Onboard through Stage 11 of Rally Isle of Man as the crew take fastest Junior BRC and R2 time over the Oatlands stage- Using the famous Marine drive in reverse.