Meirion Evans has swapped his Skoda Fabia R5 for the much-fancied Volkswagen Polo R5 ahead of his second year in the Irish Tarmac Championship. The Welshman is hoping to build on his experience from 2019 after finishing second on the championship’s final round, the Cork 20 Rally, last September.
“We had a customer interested in the Skoda I used at the end of last year,” explained Evans. “I took some convincing but we got the chance to get our hands on a Polo R5 and I thought, ‘Why not?’
“The Skoda was a fantastic car for me and I’d have no hesitation in doing a rally in it again but the Polo should give us a great package for the bumpy tar of Ireland.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of guys that have driven the Polo and I’ve not heard a bad word about it yet so fingers crossed I will be no different!”
Evans’ has had his name down for a Polo R5 for over a year but with a busy 2019 campaign he never got a chance to finalise the order. The ITRC’s opening rally, Galway International, will be Evans’ debut event in the car.
“We have a lot of old friends from Prodrive that now work in Volkswagen so it has always been an option.
“Volkswagen is very supportive to make sure the car works in this part of the world and the engineers have a very good understanding of what it takes to do so as well.”
The 2019 Tarmac Championship was a big learning curve for the 24-year-old, combining his first full season in a four-wheel-drive car with his first season on Ireland’s narrow asphalt roads.
“I learned a lot about the cars, the rallies, the stages and myself. I feel a lot further advanced than this time last year and it always helps when you have an idea of what you’re going in to.
“I probably underestimated how much I’d pick up during the year and the intense competition brought me on as well.
“The idea to go back to the Tarmac Championship was quite simple. I learned a lot about the events last year.
“I’m still way behind some of the boys on experience level but a year makes a big difference and it’ll hopefully make a difference this year having done all of the rallies at least once.”
Having come close to a win at the tail-end of last year’s championship, Evans is hoping for more positive results this year but recognises the competition for rally wins makes that elusive maiden victory a challenge in itself.
Speaking of challenges, they don’t come much trickier than Galway Rally’s traditional slippery conditions.
“I was very inexperienced with this type of rally a year ago. I struggled to commit on the mud as I wasn’t that sure of how the R5 would react.
“After the first loop, we decided to get the car to the end and try not to put a mark on it as we were doing the first round of the BRC the week after – the boys had enough work as it was!
“Galway is very unique, usually wet, muddy and slippy. I’m more confident with everything around me going into this year’s event and I have a year of rallying in R5 cars under my belt which will hopefully make it a bit easier than last year.
“It’s not a rally to try and force things but we’ll try our best to be in the frame and try to collect a good points haul.”