WELSHMAN Elfyn Evans took victory on last weekend’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB, the first time a Welsh driver has ever won a World Rally Championship event, and 17 years since the last British driver took victory.

Evans, together with co-driver Daniel Barritt, totally dominated proceedings once the event hit the Welsh Forests on Friday morning, in his DMACK Tyres-shod, M-Sport entry.

DMACK, also searching for their first WRC win, had specially engineered a tyre to be suited to the damp gravel of Wales: a decision which proved beneficial as Evans dominated throughout in his Ford Fiesta WRC.

The weekend was also a success for Cumbria-based M-Sport, heralded as a “triple crown” by team principle Malcolm Wilson, as they celebrated not only winning the rally, but also the manufacturers’ title and the sought-after drivers championship, as Sebastian Ogier won his fifth successive title.

This year’s event also saw a number of local crews taking part, including Sacha Kakad and James Aldridge in the Westbase-backed Mitsubishi Evo 10 and Scott Partridge with Keegan Rees on the notes in their Subaru Impreza.

Crews took on 21 high speed tests totalling some 305 kilometres in tough, slippery, foggy conditions on some of the world’s best gravel roads.    

The action got underway on Thursday evening with a new 1.5km super-special stage at Tir Prince trotting track near Abergele with reigning champion Sebastian Ogier stopping the clocks fastest.

Friday offered six tests totalling some 120km in the mid-Wales forests, with Myherin, Sweet Lamb and Hafren run twice, interspersed with a re-group in Newtown.

Thousands of spectators welcomed crews as Evans stopped the clocks fastest by 3.7 seconds from Citroen C3 WRC driver, and fellow Brit, Kris Meeke in Myherin.

With Estonian Ott Tanak in his M-Sport Fiesta fastest in Sweet Lamb, next up was Hafren, with its fast roads still wet and greasy despite the autumn sunshine. Evans was back in the groove, four seconds quicker than Tanak, and held a 6.2 second lead.

With the sun now beating down, Evans answered any questions about the performance of the DMACK tyres in drying conditions with another fastest time on Myherin 2. Ogier was fastest again in Sweet Lamb 2, and a hard-charging Thierry Neuville in the Hyundai i20 WRC was fastest on the re-run of Hafren: the Belgian recovering from a first stage excursion which left him a lowly seventh overnight.

Evans returned to Deeside with a 24.6 second lead and an M-Sport one, two, three.

Kakad had a steady start, lying 40th after stage six, but clutch failure in Hafren 2 saw him drop to 47th overnight. For Partridge it was a fairly uneventful start apart from a diff control switch playing up, arriving back on Deeside 62nd overall.

Day three was the longest of the event, with 142 kilometres of stages and a 17 hour stint behind the wheel.

Continuing to push from the front, Evans set the pace again in the first runnings of Aberhirnant and Dyfnant before the event headed into Gartheniog and Dyfi Main, increasing his lead to 49.3 seconds. Behind the battle raged for second, with the Fiestas of Tanak and Ogier attempting to hold off the Hyundais of Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen and the Toyota Yaris of Jari-Matti Latvala.

Following a re-run of Gartheniog and Dyfi Main, crews then headed across the border for the 1.8kms of the Rallyfest Chomondley Castle, where the rally lost the Toyota Yaris WRC of Juho Hanninen when the Finn came off second best with a straw bale.

Crews returned to Deeside for a welcome service before a sting in the tail with a re-run of both Aberhirnant and Dyfnant in darkness.

Thick blanket fog greeted crews in Aberhirnant with Latvala fastest in his Toyota, 0.5 seconds quicker than Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai i20. Evans set seventh quickest but the big loser was Tanak dropping from second overall to sixth, complaining of “no vision”.

Following the final test of Dyfnant, Evans led by 53 seconds going into the final day.

It was an eventful third day for Partridge with the loss of launch control, brake issues and fog on Aberhirnant spending most of the stage in second gear. Kakad meanwhile moved up to 40th overall.

Sunday’s short final leg, including the notoriously tricky forests of Alwen, Brenig and Gwydir, was all that stood between Evans and a piece of history.

Tanak was fastest on the day’s opener in Alwen, while Andreas Mikkelsen was quickest in Brenig 1, closing the gap to fourth placed Latvala to two seconds.

Neuville was fastest in Gwydir to consolidate his second place, with Evans only seventh quickest, and Mikkelsen was fastest again in Alwen 2 and took fourth place from Latvala by one second.

So it was left to just 6.43 kilometres of Brenig to see if Evans could make history not only to take his maiden WRC victory but the first Welshman to win the event. Eighth quickest was enough to give him a 37 second victory and was greeted at the stop line by his father Gwyndaf a former British champion who was rightly proud of his son’s achievement.

“I can’t believe it,” said Evans junior. “It will take a while to sink in, it’s been a tough event but the car has been faultless.

“I watched my father tackle this event many times as a small boy and to become the first Welshman to win my home WRC rally is a dream come true.”

Neuville took the last stage win to consolidate his second place overall, with Meeke second in the power stage but finishing a disappointing seventh overall.

Third overall was enough for Sebastian Ogier to clinch his fifth WRC drivers title, but also help M-Sport clinch the manufacturers crown. Mikkelsen held off Latvala for fourth with Ott Tanak rounding out the top six.

The day finished as thousands of spectators lined the streets in Llandudno to welcome home Evans and Barritt on this historic day for British rallying.

For both Kakad and Partridge it was left to make it to the end, with Kakad 40th overall and 25th in class, Partridge 54th and fourth in Nat 4 class out of the 65 survivors who reached Llandudno.