Meirion Evans is ready. As we speak, his Volkswagen Polo R5 is sitting on axle stands patiently waiting to power through Irish Tarmac again. Two years after their last visit to the west; Evans, his Polo, and navigator Jonathan Jackson are proper dark horses ahead of February’s Galway International Rally.
At the moment, Evans’ main source of work is preparing Melvyn Evans Motorsport’s two remaining Volkswagens for prospective Galway Rally customers. His own steed has been parked up and ready for the 2022 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship since last October’s Wexford Stages Rally.
After two early stage wins, it looked like Wexford could be Evans’ first rally win in Ireland. In the end, he had to settle for second behind Josh Moffett. Three runner-up finishes from his last four events in Ireland has put Evans right in the mix with Ireland’s home favourites.
“Everything went pretty well last year,” Evans explained. “In Wexford, the weather was a bit dodgy and we had that good a year with two wins in the UK, I thought sensibly about it.
“I knew if I was going to stick my neck out and race, I was going to be risking the car.
“At the end of having a good year, if we had a crash trying to win a rally again, for this year it would have been a big setback.
“We took it for what it was and on the whole I think the year was as good as we could have hoped for.”
Evans’ performances along with 2021 British Rally Championship title protagonists Matt Edwards and Osian Pryce have put the MEM-prepared Polos at the centre of Galway Rally’s rumour mill.
The Volkswagens are hot property. Evans can understand the interest and admitted there was very little development required for the cars throughout his Welsh compatriots’ BRC campaigns.
A season that ended with Edwards taking an emphatic two-and-a-half-minute victory on the Ulster Rally.
“To be honest, where we started with the car was pretty good anyway. All you can do is understand it more and see where you can extract a bit more speed.
“I had done a bit of tarmac rallying in the Polo before Matt and Osian jumped into the car. They basically started where I was and made very small changes their own way.
“We still have some things to try with the car but on the whole the car is very good. It is a nice car to drive, it doesn’t demand much from you.
“It doesn’t scare you too much if it is muddy and damp. It’s not the type of car to throw the rear out, it is a nice chassis which I like.”
A full assault on the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship is Evans’ main focus in 2022. He is about as well prepared for the season as any of his rivals but by no means is he getting ahead of himself.
His sole aim is to get through Galway with a solid result. Evans is taking each rally at a time.
After all, if there is ever a rally to stay level-headed, well it’s Galway isn’t it!
“Galway is tricky. If you have two clean days going at a good strong pace, you will do alright.
“I think it was Sam [Moffett] who said two years ago: ‘You never drive like you are going to win Galway, you drive to finish it.’
“You have to be sensible because there is so much to catch you out. It is usually wet which means there is mud.
“It’s easy to get sucked into a mistake, something can happen so easily. You can think you are driving safely and then a bit of shiny tar will catch you out.
“If the car is working well then you can drive with confidence and the time will be there. I think that showed in our results from 2019 and 2020.
“We really struggled in 2019 and I was really unsure about how we would do the next year.
“Then all of a sudden you find that the car works, you have more pace in it, you can feel everything a lot better, and the time just comes to you.
“If you get to that level then you can manage your pace a lot better.”
After finding that all important confidence factor in Galway two years ago, Evans has quickly pushed himself into Irish rallying’s ever-growing list of potential winners.
Evans’ Galway results went from 11th in 2019 to fourth in 2020. That fourth-position could well have been a top three had his Polo not lost boost for half a mile on Galway’s second stage.
The wise Welshman rightly claims you cannot approach the treachery of Galway as if you are going to win the rally. But with a full year of ITRC on the cards, Evans and Jackson will add an exciting edge to the top-end of what could be the Tarmac Championship’s most competitive season yet.
Photos by Roger Dawson and Barronpix