By Paul Evans
Wales’ most celebrated rally co-driver, Nicky Grist, says that Elfyn Evans well and truly deserves his place in the M-Sport World Rally Team next year, as the 28-year old Dolgellau driver is confirmed as team-mate to World Champion Sébastien Ogier in the all-conquering Ford Fiesta WRC for the 2018 season.
Evans became the first Welsh driver to win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship when he stormed to victory on this year’s Wales Rally GB with the DMACK Team.
Co-driven by Daniel Barritt, it was also the first time a British driver had won his home round of the WRC since Richard Burns/Robert Reid in 2000 – ending a 17-year wait.
And in a sport where timing is everything, Evans hit the winning sweet spot just as Estonian driver Ott Tänak was vacating M-Sport for rivals Toyota – securing himself the prime drive with the number one M-Sport team, who are the newly-crowned manufacturers’ champions.
And Grist believes Evans has well and truly earned his promotion to the premier M-Sport squad. The Ebbw Vale born co-driver won 21 World Championship rallies during an illustrious career, and won Rally GB twice – with Juha Kankkunen (Toyota) in 1993 and most famously with Colin McRae (Subaru) in 1997.
He now lives in Abergavenny and remains heavily involved in the sport, running Nicky Grist Motorsports – a supplier of specialist safety equipment, including Stilo helmets and P1 Advanced Racewear fireproof suits – and helping the next generation of British navigators as a MSA Academy Co-driving Coach.
“Elfyn has well and truly earned his place as team-mate to Sébastien Ogier in the M-Sport team for next season, and there is no doubt in my mind that he has a very bright future ahead of him,” says Grist.
“Two of the hardest things to do in the World Rally Championship, two of the biggest pressure points for a driver, is to win your first rally and to win your home event, and on Wales Rally GB this year Elfyn achieved both.
“That will be a massive weight off his shoulders. Winning for the first time gives a driver a huge psychological boost, and it often inspires drivers to go on and achieve more and more victories – which is ironic, when scoring your first victory can seem so difficult. Hopefully more victories are now just around the corner for Elfyn.”
Evans is relishing the start of the new season in Monte Carlo in January and will be targeting a title challenge.
He said: “After getting that first victory under our belts, we’re ready to take the next step and I think we all have another exciting season ahead of us.
“Honestly, I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel and Rally Monte Carlo can’t come soon enough. We’ll be working hard over the Christmas break to ensure we’re fully prepared, and the goal will be to build on the success of this year.”