Evans offers Junior advice
With the FIA Junior WRC reaching its climax at Rally Turkey this month (13-16 September), and the announcement that the series will continue to be managed by M-Sport in 2019, we sat down with the Junior category’s 2012 winner Elfyn Evans to find out how the series has influenced his career.
The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver won the WRC Academy, as it was then known, and joined the likes of Dani Sordo, Craig Breen and multiple-world champions Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier in sealing the prestigious title for up-and-coming junior drivers.
Evans admits 2012 was a make or break year for his career after a number of seasons competing at domestic level in Great Britain.
“It was a big stretch for us to go and commit to that type of programme,” the Welshman explains. “It was a lot more budget than we spent doing the junior classes in the British Rally Championship beforehand. It was a massive investment and it could have been one shot only.
“The objective was to try and win it in order to get the prize (a limited programme of WRC events in four-wheel-drive machinery). That led me to M-Sport and the rest is history. Without it, I’m not saying the years that came later would not have happened, but most likely they wouldn’t.”
At the age of 21, Evans won four of the six WRC Academy rounds on his way to the title and credits the varied mix of events on that season’s calendar - including Greece, Finland and Germany - as being vital to his development as a driver.
“I think the Academy provided an equal platform to compare myself against my rivals, and also to learn the correct events that would help to move my career to the next level,” he says. “We all know how essential experience is in rallying, and it was important to be doing the correct events.”
Compared to national competition, Evans believes his time in the WRC Academy better prepared him for the intensity of the world championship.
He says: “What you notice straight away is that the events are much longer. The recce is demanding as well as the actual rally. WRC is three to four days of competition, whereas British Championship rounds are one to two days.
“It’s a step up in all directions. Portugal was a good example. I really struggled when I went there for the first round and it made me realise that even though I could win at home in the UK, the level had changed. You can’t just cruise round and pick up wins in the WRC, you really have to fight.”
And for those drivers looking to following in Evans’s footsteps in 2019 and beyond, last season’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB winner thinks it’s crucial to get some basic WRC experience before committing to a full Junior WRC programme.
“It’s important to do at least two or three WRC events before you invest in a full programme,” he acknowledges. “If you can only afford to do one, then maybe pick an event that is in the Junior calendar, such as Finland or Germany, to get an idea of what goes on. To go in completely cold is difficult.”
For more information about the FIA Junior WRC, go to: http://www.m-sport.co.uk/pages/junior-wrc
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