2 March 2014
Evans 'not sure what to expect' in Mexico
Elfyn Evans will make his début in the Rally Mexico next weekend, and expects to find the high altitudes and long sweeping stages to be a challenge unlike any other he's encountered.
Having so far competed at the Monaco and Sweden rallies for the M-Sport World Rally Team, Welsh driver Elfyn Evans faces a completely new world of challenges next weekend as he heads off to Mexico.
"This event offers another new experience," admitted Evans. "I'm not sure of exactly what to expect, but I have a good idea from the test."
Fortunately he has a good supply of local knowledge on hand in the car courtesy of his co-driver Daniel Barritt, who despite hailing from Lancashire is something of an old hand at this event: it will be his fifth outing here, having most recently navigated Toshihiro Arai to second place in the Production World Rally Championship in 2010.
Evans and Barritt have been busy training for the event in Northern Spain, where they spent a full day testing alongside their team mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen. Chief among the challenges are the high altitudes reached over the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains that ran reduce engine power by as much as a third, making any time lost to a small mistake critical in term of overall performance.
“It's important to drive a very smooth line and carry good speed into the corners as the lack of power makes it difficult to recover any time loss," explained Evans. "For us, we just plan to drive as smoothly and as cleanly as possible – to gain the experience and gradually improve our pace throughout the weekend."
Mexico also boasts some of the longest stages of the entire WRC calendar. Friday sees two passes of 'El Chocolate' (44.03 kilometres), with 'Otates' (53.69 kilometres) lying in wait for them on Saturday and then the longest test of all, the 55.92 kilometre 'Guanajuatito', then looming between them and the finish line on SUnday.
"Some of the longest gravel stages of my career," agreed a justifiably wary Evans. "I've certainly never had to contend with so many long stages in a single event, but I am looking forward to the challenge.
"We've done a lot of preparation on the physical side, so hopefully that will prove effective and we can concentrate on looking after the car and setting some good splits," he added.
On the plus side, it should be a relief to get back onto gravel after the tricky winter conditions of the first two outings of the year to date.
“[There should be] some more consistent grip levels to those we have had to contend with so far this season," said Evans. "Our progress rate will be more constant, and it will be easier to build the pace stage by stage without having to adapt to the changing conditions."
So far in 2014, Evans has finished in sixth place in the season opener at Monaco but then crashed out in Sweden. He is currently in ninth place in the WRC drivers championship.
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