World Rally Championship WRC 2 points-leader Elfyn Evans and co-driver Craig Parry will compete in Sol Rally Barbados 2016 (June 3-5) in the first-off-the-line Ford Fiesta R5 Evo which the car’s owner John Powell drove to victory in his home event, Rally Trinidad, this year.
They will arrive in the island before Simpson Motors scrutineering and Flow King of the Hill the previous weekend, allowing time to prepare for their new challenge.
The Welsh pair are slotting their Caribbean trip into an already busy schedule, having been enlisted by M-Sport for a dual programme with the new-generation Fiesta R5 Evo. Tasked with winning both the WRC 2 title and the re-vamped British Rally Championship (BRC), Evans has started well, currently leading WRC 2 after wins in Monte Carlo and Sweden and lying second in the BRC, having won the opening round in Wales.
Powell, whose Focus WRC08 will be driven by French ex-Ford works driver Simon Jean-Joseph, said: “We are always happy to work with the Barbados Rally Club as we continue to evolve the sport in the Caribbean. Like everybody else, I am really excited to see how our local and regional drivers will compare with Elfyn and Simon.”
It is 20 years since Welsh rallying legend Gwyndaf Evans won the BRC, in which he also finished runner-up four times over a 15-year period, and ten short years since son Elfyn first embarked on a rally career, finishing second in the F1000 Championship. Since then, Evans –– now 27 years old –– has won eight titles in Ford Fiestas, including the FIA WRC Academy and BRC R2 Championship in 2012, then the Fiesta Sport Trophy Shootout in the same year, which offered him a year’s employment at M-Sport.
He played a major role in the development of the Fiesta R5, challenging ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica in the second half of 2013, finishing eighth overall and winning WRC 2 in Wales Rally GB. In his subsequent two seasons in the WRC, Evans has 12 top-six results to his credit, with two podiums. He led much of the Tour de Corse last year, claiming a career-best second place, and had earlier finished third in Rally Argentina, making for two British crews on the podium, as double Sol Rally Barbados winner, Ulsterman Kris Meeke, secured his first WRC victory.
“I’ve heard a lot of great things about this event so a big thanks to John [Powell], M-Sport and the rally organisers for giving myself and Craig an opportunity to experience it for ourselves. There’s always a lot of competition and the event attracts a lot of top-specification cars, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. But, if there is a possibility to challenge for the win, we’ll certainly give it a go! This really is a unique opportunity to experience another new and very popular event. I’m sure it will live up to the expectation and I’m really looking forward to sampling the atmosphere first hand,” Evans said.
Parry, paired with Evans this season for the first time, brings a wealth of experience to the partnership, having rallied across the world as a full-time co-driver in 2002, which was also when he made his WRC debut. In recent years, he has dove-tailed campaigns in the WRC with Championships in Canada, the Middle East and, last year, selected rounds of the NACAM Fiesta R2 Cup, including a class win in Rally Panama.
Sol Rally Barbados chairman Mark Hamilton said that over the years the event had been fortunate to attract high-profile regional and international crews, who had enhanced the event’s competitive nature, and also its worldwide profile.
“We are confident that Elfyn and Craig will do so again. The participation of a crew and car that currently compete at the highest level in both the British Rally Championship and WRC 2 ticks two new boxes for us, and we hope this is a sign of things to come.
“The M-Sport built Fiesta R5 will add a new dimension to this year’s Sol Rally Barbados and I am sure that spectators will enjoy watching the local, regional and international crews over the three days of competition. We must thank Intercontinental Shipping and John Powell for their involvement in making this a reality, M-Sport for their interest in, and support of the effort and, of course, Elfyn and Craig for their time to come and have a play in the sand, sea, sun –– and speed –– that Barbados has to offer”.