by Rob Wilkins.

Gwyndaf Evans is a rallying veteran, having won the British Rally Championship in 1996 - as well as having finished runner-up in 1995, 1998 and 1999 - so who better then than to give us his thoughts on the current state of the sport?

From the very top, with Sebastien Loeb dominating the WRC, to the BRC, where Mark Higgins is on course to take the title, Gwyndaf was prepared to talk rallying. He may not have been out in the thick of things as much as he would have liked this year, but he still has a few tales to tell and was only to eager to speak to Crash.net Radio at the recent Castle Combe Rallyday...

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Q:
Gwyndaf, tell us what you have been up to this year. I recall you were out on a BRC event in the Ford Fiesta Junior WRC car a few months back...

Gwyndaf Evans:
Yeah, that's right. I haven't done as much as I had hoped this year. I was still contracted to MG Rover at the beginning of the year, but obviously it's common knowledge what's happened there, which was a shame.

Then I got involved with the Ford Fiesta Super 1600 car. I did a couple of tests. I did quite a bit in Turkey, testing there before [the Rally of] Turkey and then I went up to M-Sport and did some testing there. I then debuted it in the UK on the Pirelli Rally [in May], which unfortunately didn't go quite so well initially. The following day, though, we came back and we set some good times. It certainly showed there was some strength within the car although, of course, there is still some work to be done with it.

Q:
We were talking to [Ford boss] Malcolm Wilson prior to Rally Finland and he said Ford might run the Fiesta on the Ulster Rally. Any chance you will be out in it again?

GE:
I don't think so, unfortunately, much as I would like to. I think there will be another... there is somebody else again with some sponsorship, I think, going in and doing that one.

Q:
What were your impressions of it? Obviously, you have driven the MG Junior car in recent years. How did the two compare? Or is that a bit controversial?

GE:
I think that would be quite unfair, but what I can say is, obviously, from looks, the Fiesta is stunning and some of its handling characteristics are very, very good and very, very strong. And I would say, if they work on some areas, which they are very aware of and I'm sure they will - and I am very sure they will get it right as well - it will be a cracking little car.

Q:
You are wearing a Wales Rally GB shirt here, so I assume you are obviously involved in the promotion of that. Can you tell us a bit about that?

GE:
Absolutely - you know, being Welsh helps! But, obviously, we are very proud of our events and I have done it for 16 years consecutively. I have got an entry again this year, although, unfortunately I've lost a major sponsor this week. I am trying to put a deal together now in the next couple of weeks, but that is gong to be tough.

I think the rally itself is a big attraction, especially this year with going to the [Millennium] stadium as well. It offers such classic stages at the end of day and, this year, there is a good chance it will be dry, so the speeds will inevitably be very, very fast. It always draws a fantastic following, which gives it an incredible atmosphere.

Q:
And what car are you planning to contest the event in - assuming you can sort out the sponsorship problem?

GE:
I've entered it in a Group N car and my intention was to see how close I could run to the Production Car [WRC] regulars.

Q:
What car is that a Mitsubishi or Subaru or what?

GE:
I think you have named the only two alternatives there. So I don't mind, one of the two will do! [laughs]

Q:
What have you made of the WRC this year? Watching from the outside - any thoughts?

GE:
It is damn quick - there is no question about it. I would say, arguably, that the cars have gone very, very technical, maybe not quite as spectacular, but certainly more effective and more quick than ever, and it is still very competitive there at the top. Obviously, every split second counts there now. Sebastien Loeb, Citroen and Michelin have been the strongest package this year - they have capitalised on that and have done a damn good job.

Q:
I was going to say that they really have been in a class of their own. Six wins in a row is a record, which says it all.

GE:
Yeah, I think it is combination of a number of things just clicking, and then putting every thing together - you know, from tyres, chassis', engineers, teams and obviously Sebastien and his co driver Daniel Elena doing a fantastic job. Fair play. Obviously, this forces the others to try and maybe give 110 per cent, and then they make mistakes in the process, which is always difficult.

Q:
It is a blow for the WRC to lose Citroen and Peugeot though, isn't it? There are not enough works teams as it is, so to lose another two means we are down to four, if we include Skoda - and, not to be unkind, but they are at a lower level.

GE:
Yeah... but I think there is a lot of talk about the cost of the WRC and obviously that has to be monitored and kept a very, very close on eye on. I think that is the problem generally in motorsport, the escalating costs all the time. That is why I am personally faced with this dilemma even at Group N level - even Group N level is expensive. I don't know why it has to be expensive - are you with me? The chances are that the fastest man will still win, whether it's in a lesser spec car or not. I am not against technology, because I think it is healthy as well, but I think it can still control the costs.

Q:
Turning to the BRC, obviously you are a former champion. Have you been watching from the outside? Mark Higgins has been dominant, a bit like Loeb in the WRC really?

GE: [Pause] ...Well, not taking anything away from Mark, he has been driving very, very well and I have been taking a close interest in it and keeping an eye on the British Championship. For sure, that is another good example of Mark, the car, the tyres working very well [together], but I don't think he has had the same competition as Sebastien has at world level. I wish the BRC would have two or three other drivers at Mark's level.

Q:
Like you, for instance?

GE: [Laughs] Well... you know, although I am not getting any younger, you still think you could put up good fight, but who knows! Mark has done good job - there is no denying that he is driving well at moment - and he would be a hard task. Still, it would be nice to have a go wouldn't it?

Q:
It was a shame that Matthew Wilson got injured at the start of the year, as he would be quite a good person to keep Mark honest?

GE:
Absolutely and, you know, Matt will improve with every rally he does, whereas Mark is probably at his peak now. So that would have be interesting - to see Matthew getting faster and, maybe, Mark keeping his game up and Matthew just getting closer and closer as events and mileage go under his belt. It has been a set back for him, for sure, but I am sure he will fight back.

Q:
Final question, your thoughts on the Rallyday here at Castle Combe - and a rather wet Rallyday, you would have to say too!

GE:
If you had asked me an hour ago, I thought it was brilliant. The sun was out and it looked like everyone was having a fantastic day. It's a lovely day to have a gathering of people, meet old friends, see some lovely cars, some historic cars and have a blast around the track, what more can somebody ask?

Q:
Thanks Gwyndaf. Hope you enjoy the rest of the day and best of luck with finding a sponsor for the Rally GB. We will be keeping our fingers crossed for you.