Northern Ireland Rally: Gwyndaf Evans remains the one to beat
Gwyndaf Evans stands out in the line-up for the Toddsleap.com Northern Ireland Rally and not just because he is No.1 in the starting list.
The Welshman is 51-years-old now, a former British champion who had officially retired over a year ago, only to be tempted back to drive for the JRM Mitsubishi team in a BRC championship which has become the domain of up-and-coming young chargers.
And many of them are Irish — like reigning champion Keith Cronin, leader of the current series Jonny Greer, Alastair Fisher and Craig Breen. Even Evans’ 21-year-old son Elfyn will be competing against him when the Northern Ireland event begins from Antrim on August 20.
But Evans, who won the Ulster Rally as far back as 1989, is still the benchmark, the standard by which the youngsters must measure themselves. And two wins out of four rounds indicate he still sets the bar high.
Only Cronin has taken wins away from him this season and Evans lies second in the standings, four points behind the consistent Greer and two ahead of the champion Cronin from Cork.
Because of a change in regulations this year the WRC supercars of Gareth MacHale, Derek McGarrity and Co from Ireland’s Tarmac championship cannot compete alongside the production machines of the BRC contenders.
So they will be in separate competitions with MacHale leading the field in the traditional Ulster Rally in his M-Sport Ford Focus and Evans heading the line-up in the new NI Rally with Cronin at two, Fisher three, Breen four, Greer five and Dutchman Piet van Hoof six.
The list also includes Icelander Daníel Sigurdarson, Finns Jarkko Nikara and Matti Rantanen and Australian Molly Taylor.