Welsh rally driver Meirion Evans will cross the Irish Sea this week hoping the Cork 20 International Rally becomes his first ever rally win in Ireland.
One could easily overlook Evans with so many top Irish crews ready for battle on Ireland’s return to closed-road rallying. However, the Volkswagen Polo R5 crew of Evans and Jonathan Jackson boasts a serious run of form. And let’s face it, they are no strangers to Irish rallying.
The duo has completed three rallies so far in 2021, securing two wins in Scotland and England as well as third on France’s National du Boulonnais Rally. It’s an impressive string of asphalt results and it has given Evans a feeling inside the car that he was starting to get before coronavirus halted plans.
“We are happy with how we progressed over each event [this year],” explained Evans. “It was important that we got as much mileage as possible to build the confidence back in the car.
“And after the confidence and familiarity was back we could focus more on improving our pace.
“I actually underestimated the time it would take me to readjust properly to the car again.
“I feel very good about it all. The car, tyres and everything around us feel right, and that can only be a good thing.
“We did a rally in France and had some pretty bad rain so it helped me find a good place [with the car’s set-up] in the wet, too.
“I love driving the car, now that I’ve actually got to do some miles in it, so I’m looking forward to getting at it again.”
2020’s Galway International Rally was Evans’ last time on Irish tarmac, an event he made his Polo R5 debut on. In fact, if it wasn’t for a loss of power on Galway’s second stage, Evans likely would have finished runner-up to an untouchable Alastair Fisher on the Irish Tarmac opener.
Rewind a further five months and Evans was second on 2019’s ITRC finale in Cork. This Sunday will mark Evans’ fifth Cork 20 appearance. The big question is, can he turn third in 2018 and second in ‘19 into a Cork 20 win this year?
“We hope that pattern continues into this year,” said Evans. “But honestly, I don’t know. I feel confident with everything around me and we will do everything we can to be as competitive as possible.
“Ireland is like a second home for me. I love the atmosphere and the craic. The competition is fierce but everyone gets along and the roads and rallies you have are some of the best around.
“I’ve missed rallying over there so it will be nice to be back.”
Cork 20’s entry list is bulging with potential winners. Evans’ recent success, current confidence, and Irish form put him right in the mix. If he can better Ireland’s home heroes on Sunday it would be an incredible way to seal his first overall win on the Emerald Isle.
Photos by Kevin Glendinning