Welsh Rally driver Meirion Evans endured a mixed weekend at the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally but came away from the two-day event delighted with his pace.
The West Cork Rally is widely renowned as one of the jewels in the crown of Irish Rallying and it quickly became evident that the 2019 edition of this popular event was to become a highlight with a near 200 car entry making its way to Clonakilty. Not only that but the event would be the first of two where the Irish Tarmac Championship and the Motorsport UK British Rally Championship would go head to head, with an incredible 25 R5-spec machines leading the way at the top of the field.
Renowned stages such as ‘Ring’, ‘Sam’s Cross’ and ‘Ardfield’ would greet the crews and provide two days and nearly 225 kilometers of competitive mileage, the Hyundai i20 R5 of Evans and co-driver Jonathan Jackson seeded at 21 for their first visit to an event which holds fond memories for the Evans family; Meirion’s father Melvyn taking victory twice in the lanes surrounding Clonakilty.
However, uncharacteristically the event would begin under darkened skies, with Storm Gareth making its presence felt and soaking the stages – the first wet West Cork for a decade! A lurid spin at the same location as many of his fellow competitors on the opening stage would put Evans on the back foot, fortunately without any damage to the Rally Team UK and The Scan Station backed machine.
Sadly, the day would be cut short for the 23 year old driver on just the fourth test, with a fuel pump related issue stopping the car in the stage. After using the ‘Rally 2’ regulations to rejoin the event two stages later, Evans and Jackson would use the valuable miles to increase their pace aboard the Hyundai and post competitive times – immediately entering the top 10 despite it being their first pass of the stages.
Such pace would continue to the end of the day, posting an 8th fastest time, less than 10 seconds shy of the podium, on the days penultimate test; firmly putting the mornings issues behind them and ensuring a strong road position for the second leg of the event.
If the weather conditions on Day 1 were uncharacteristic then Day 2 was business as usual for the Cork Motor Club organised event – cloudless blue skies greeting all the crews at Parc Ferme. Two loops of three stages lay ahead of the crew, ‘Clogagh’, ‘Ballinsascarty’ and ‘Ardfield’ – three of the fastest stages in the country – perfect territory for the crew and for the Hyundai.
Over the first five stages of Day 2, the pair mixed it with some of the fastest R5 drivers from the British and Irish Championships, firmly establishing themselves in the front running pack with a string of top 8 times. Thanks to the hard work of the Melvyn Evans Motorsport team, the set up of the car gave Evans a great deal of confidence throughout the afternoon loop and, with nothing to lose, entered the final run through Ardfield with the bit between his teeth. Ten kilometres later, the pair exited the stage just half a second shy of their first overall fastest time, only the two crews fighting for the BRC victory lying ahead – a fantastic effort and a sign of things to come;
“Usually, leaving an event having had to use Rally 2 would be quite disappointing, but this weekend was different. Whilst it’s a shame we didn’t score the points that our pace warranted, we proved we could mix it with the best.
We endured a tricky start, a spin costing 15 seconds wasn’t the best start but we knew instantly that without our spin our pace was competitive. Unfortunately we never got any real momentum as we hit problems shortly after. Thankfully we managed to sort the car and return to action on stage 7. The conditions weren’t easy with a lot of mud being dragged out but we set some good times to end the day.
With conditions improved for day 2 the stage conditions were still tricky, but we found a nice rhythm and experimented some more with car set up as we’re still learning the car and the events. Our pace was very pleasing, mixing it with former Irish and British champions on our first visit to West Cork which gives us confidence moving forward to the next few rounds where we will try to replicate this performance.”
Next for Evans and Jackson is the UAC Easter Stages, Round 3 of the TROA Irish Tarmac Rally Championship where they hope to continue Sunday’s stand out performances to take a strong haul of points as the season heads to two of the biggest events in the calendar – Killarney Rally of the Lakes and ‘the big one’ – the Donegal International Rally.
Meirion and Jonathan would like to thank Melvyn Evans Motorsport, The Scan Station and Rally Team UK for their ongoing support.