Al-Attiyah offered his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to the young Welshman, a deal that was only finalised last Thursday. If that wasn’t challenge enough for the reigning FIA WRC Academy champion, then regulations mean he must be partnered by Al-Attiyah’s co-driver, Giovanni Bernacchini, rather than usual incumbent Daniel Barritt.
Wrc.com caught up with Evans ahead of tonight’s start to see how he is handling the experience.
Q: Your debut in a World Rally Car has come as a big surprise. Has it sunk in yet?
EE: Surprise would be the correct word for it! I only found out last Wednesday and since then I have been doing some PR work with the Fiesta R5, before flying straight here. I met Giovanni on Monday, did the recce and now practice and qualifying. There has been no time at all to think about what is happening. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I have to make the most of it.
Q: You have watched and read about drivers like Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala competing in the WRC and it must have been your dream to compete directly against them. Does it feel strange that you are about to do that?
EE: I never really thought my debut would come like this, without any preparation and at such short notice, but hopefully it won’t be my last chance. It’s great to be up against the best in the world.
Q: How difficult is it for you and also for Giovanni to go into competition without proper testing?
EE: It was quite difficult to start with for both of us. We did some pace note practice on Monday, and made good progress on the recce. I think as the event goes on we will get used to each other and things will start to work, but no doubt it will have to be a cautious start and we can build on that. Giovanni has learned a lot of new words and probably still doesn’t know what any of them mean!
Q: You shakedown M-Sport’s Fiesta RS WRCs before they leave for WRC rallies. Is that limited experience of the car going to give you any help?
EE: At least it means I’m familiar with the controls and how everything works in the car. That’s the main benefit. Shaking down the cars is on flat asphalt and often with gravel tyres, so you learn bits and pieces but it is nothing like being on a real stage.
Q: And your target for the weekend?
EE: The main target is to finish. It will be a really, really difficult event and if we can get to the end without problems or mistakes we’ll be doing OK. That will be a challenge in itself. I have to concentrate on doing a good job and not worry too much about what everyone else is doing.