Lampeter Rally driver, Meirion Evans bagged a second consecutive podium on the recent Cork 20 International Rally, the final round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
Fresh from a podium on his debut in the Hyundai i20 R5 on the Wexford Stages three weeks previously, Evans entered the Macroom based event confident, yet aware of the challenge that lay ahead of him and co-driver Jonathan Jackson.
Despite competing on the event on two previous occasions, with a best result of 8th overall and 1st two wheel drive car, the event had since moved to a new base in Macroom with a host of stages the pair had never experienced previously including the famous Kilnamatra – dubbed by nine time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb as one of the best stages he’d driven in his illustrious career.
Following a ceremonial start in the centre of Macroom on Friday evening, The Scan Station backed pairing made their way to the opening loop of stages, ready to tackle the 233 competitive kilometres that lay ahead of them. As they entered service after the opening two stages the Melvyn Evans Motorsport pairing lay in third overall, just 3.6 seconds off the lead having taken their first fastest time of the event on stage two. That would be a position they would hold over the next loop, a repeat of the opening stages, as they headed into the afternoon a mere 13 seconds off the lead.
The afternoon loop would prove to be challenging for the crew as they dropped a lot of time in stage 5; struggling to find a rhythm with the notes written during the recce and not having the car set up for the extremely bumpy stage 5. However, undeterred they bounced back by the end of day 1 to lie third of the R5 category cars and forth overall – a strong start on their debut Irish International in the car.
Day 2 dawned bright, immediately setting second fastest time on the opening test before taking their second fastest time on the second stage of the day to end the opening loop in third place.
Now firmly in their stride, the pair would end the event with another three fastest times to clinch their first Irish Tarmac Championship and international podium at the end of a gruelling Cork 20 International Rally;
“It was fantastic to round off the year with 2 strong results in the i20 R5. We came to Cork to learn more about the car and to see where it can be improved for future events. We feel like it’s mission accomplished and we will now set out to work on the areas we need to work on over winter. We came into the rally with the same plan as Wexford- to drive at our own pace and push on as the event wore on. We were a little surprised to be in contention for the lead from the word go which is incredibly positive for us. Barring one bad stage we could have possibly fought for the win. We grew in confidence with the car and made some tweaks to the set up. To come away with 3rd overall and 5 fastest times from this rally was above my expectations.”
The event rounds of their 2018 season on an extremely strong note, having suffered a series of misfortune early in the season. After making their debut in the ultra competitive Peugeot 208 Cup in France the pair showed impressive development, including taking fourth fastest overall up the famous Col de Turini test. However, a number of problems, the majority of which out of their control, would influence a move to more powerful R5 machinery in the middle of the year. Immediately, Evans and Jackson would stamp their authority on the machine, taking fifth overall and 2nd Asphalt Championship points in their Fiesta R5 at the Down Rally in Northern Ireland. A switch to the Hyundai i20 R5 over the summer has led to two well publicised podiums and renewed confidence as they head into the winter break, already setting their sights on achieving further success in 2019.
“It was a pretty difficult start to our year. We worked hard on the 208 rally cup but never got a clean break and the results we felt we deserved never really came our way. Nonetheless we kept working and what we learnt from this championship has been a massive factor in our progress. The time felt right to switch into R5, we managed to secure a good result on the Down rally before moving on to the Hyundai, which we settled into well. The feeling from the first test was brilliant – the car is the best car I’ve ever driven, but we will work over the winter to fine tune it some more and I cant wait to get going with it again in the future.”
The pair would like to thank everyone for their support throughout their 2018 season, in particular Melvyn Evans Motorsport and The Scan Station for their backing.
Images : Barronpix