Lampeter based Meirion Evans clinched an impressive career best sixth British Championship crew on the recent Cambrian Rally, on his debut in a four wheel drive car on gravel.
Fresh from the Galway International Rally the weekend previously, which saw the youngster finish 11th overall in amongst one of the best R5 category entries seen in Europe in some of the most difficult conditions seen in Ireland, Evans and the Melvyn Evans Motorsport team made a last minute decision to enter the Llandudno-based event with support from Rally Team UK; a program for young British drivers progressing through the Sport.
Thanks to the hard work of the team in the workshop, the Hyundai i20 R5 was re-prepped to head to the events’ Shakedown stage based in Brenig on the Thursday before the event. The 2 mile stage would be the twenty three year olds first taste of a four wheel drive car, not just an R5 spec machine, on gravel.
However, Evans and co-driver Jonathan Jackson quickly settled into a confident rhythm, aware that they would be spending the weekend learning with every mile available to them.
As the event began from the new Service Park on Llandudno’s high street, the crew headed to Clocaenog and Alwen stages, immediately lying inside the top 10 on their gravel debut, ahead of much more experienced competition. It would be a position they would hold throughout the day, despite two punctures slowing their progress in the afternoon.
As every stage passed and now with valuable mileage under their belts, the pair would be pleased with their progress as their stage times moved closer to their competitors at the head of the field;
“We endured a pretty tricky start to the year in Galway, the rally didn’t really suit us at all, with the roads being so muddy and the sheer level of inconsistency we quickly realised it wasn’t the place for us to put it on the line and drove for the finish. The Cambrian was a different proposition, I hadn’t driven a 4-wheel drive car in anger on gravel before the pre-event shakedown but after around 25 miles it started to come to me. We both knew entering the rally we’d have to respect the level of competition and learn as we went along. Some of the guys had competed at the very front of WRC2 on Rally GB using the same stages a few months prior. We were in the top 10 from the outset which was a positive and our times got closer to the guys fighting in the top 5 as the rally unfolded which was very pleasing for us moving forward.”
Despite the second of their punctures occurring in the darkness prior to the penultimate stage of the event, Meirion would continue to hold his own within the top 10, despite the darkness making going extremely tough in the twisty stages above Betws-y-Coed. As the pair exited the final stage, it became clear that their rivals had hit trouble in the final 4.5 mile Elsi stage, placing the Rally Team UK, Melvyn Evans Motorsport and The Scan Station backed crew in seventh overall, taking points for sixth of the British Rally Championship registered competitors.
The British Rally Championship joins the Irish Tarmac Championship for the next round of both Championships, the West Cork Rally in March for what is promised to be one of the most competitive entries for many years.
“The last loop was extremely difficult. For three short stages, they threw a few curveballs! They were 3 stages with very little room for error and the road conditions had deteriorated a fair bit from the first pass, with the addition of rain making it very slippery. We worked had to make sure we made no mistakes in the dark. You can’t back off at this level so we still had to try. We struggled a bit with the lights being set too high, coupled with a puncture near the end of stage 8 but we made it through unscathed. Sixth BRC crew is a fantastic points haul for us considering our circumstances leading into the event. We can look forward to the tarmac of West Cork now.”
Images are courtesy of Jakob Ebrey