Elfyn Evans gave the huge crowds lining the Welsh forests plenty of reason to cheer today becoming the first British driver to lead on home soil for 16 years as he established a commanding advantage of almost 25 seconds on the opening leg of Wales Rally GB.
Having set the pace on yesterday’s Shakedown, Evans headed into today’s action – held in the famous mid-Wales forests and comprising two passes of the Myherin, Sweet Lamb and Hafren speed tests – in quietly confident mood.
Tens of thousands of enthusiastic partisan supporters lined the stages to watch the M-Sport World Rally Team ace – who hails from Dolgellau – sprint clear of all of his rivals, winning three of the six special stages behind the wheel of his DMACK-tyred Ford Fiesta WRC to rapturous reception.
His performance made Evans the first British driver to lead Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship since the late Colin McRae back in 2001.
“It’s obviously nice to be leading the way in Wales, and it’s a good position to be in overnight,” said Evans. “It’s been great to see so many fans out on the stages and all the Welsh flags – particularly at ‘Elfyn’s Corner’ in Myherin – so it was good to be able to reward them by going fastest on both runs through there.
“The conditions were really challenging; the grip levels were so changeable and we had a bit of understeer, but I think that was the same for everyone. There’s obviously pressure leading your home event, but it’s all going well at the moment.
“Tomorrow will be familiar territory for me, but you never know how it’s going to work out and there’s still a long way to go – it’s certainly not going to be plain sailing. Whatever happens, though, we’ll certainly be giving it our all.”
Behind the local favourite, the scrap for the 2017 Drivers’ World Championship crown intensified as Ott Tänak, Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville fought hammer-and-tongs over second position as just 12.5 seconds separates the trio.
© Image Gary Jones