Belfast Telegraph

Meeke finishes strongly as Evans tastes home success

 

By Sammy Hamill

Little more than a year ago, Elfyn Evans fought to hold off Alastair Fisher and win the Ulster Rally, the victory allowing him to emulate his father and become British champion.

Fast forward to 2017 and Evans was last night celebrating his first World Championship win, the Welshman dominating Rally GB in the forests of his homeland for a landmark triumph. It was a landmark win too for his M-Sport Ford team, who clinched the Manufacturers' Championship and saw Sebastien Ogier secure his fifth World title.

Ulsterman Kris Meeke was some distance back in seventh but he had the satisfaction of finishing strongly with the second fastest time on the final Power Stage at the end of an error-free rally.

How he would have liked to be the first British driver to win Rally GB since Richard Burns 17 years ago but the C3 Citroen's weaknesses on wet, slippery gravel was never going to make that possible. Instead, Evans and co-driver Dan Barritt stepped up to the plate to produce a very British victory - British crew in a British built car on British developed DMACK tyres.

They led almost from start to finish through the forests where Elfyn's dad Gwyndaf taught him to drive rally cars, holding off the challenge of Hyundai's Thierry Neuville and team-mate Ogier, who gave Ford their first Drivers' Championship since 1981.

Like his father, Evans was a regular on Irish events in his early days and only last year was duelling with Craig Breen on the Circuit of Ireland when he crashed out. He came back in August to beat Fisher, repeating dad Gwyndaf's 1989 Ulster win, and take the British title, leading to his role in the M-Sport team.

He came within less than a second of winning in Argentina in the spring before yesterday's victory which should guarantee his place at M-Sport next season.

Meeke's Citroen team-mate Breen climbed back to 15th after his C3 became beached on a low bank when he went off the road.

British Junior champion Callum Devine made an impressive WRC debut, finishing 25th.

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