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Evans shines on BRC opener

Following a nail-biting fight to the finish between some of rallying’s most promising young talents, Elfyn Evans came out on top to claim victory in the FST curtain-raiser.

Finland’s Jussi Kumpumäki brought his ‘Ford Junior Team Finland’ Ford Fiesta R2 home in second with Tom Cave claiming the final podium position in third. As the FST crews embarked on the first competitive stage, Gore Heath, on Saturday morning it was the 2010 FST Finland champion, Kumpumäki, who led the way just 1.6 seconds clear of Evans.

FIA WRC Academy graduate, Alastair Fisher, looked strong back behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R2 in third with fellow Northern Irishman, Matthew Cathcart, just 0.3 seconds adrift in fourth, putting his experience gained from the Forest of Wyedean Rally into practice.

Tom Cave and Jack Rowe lay fifth and sixth respectively with Alex Parpottas fractions behind in seventh. Ruary MacLeod set the eighth fastest time with the 2011 FST International Shootout winner, Steve Røkland, ninth in the International debut of the  Ford Fiesta R1. Niko-Pekka Nieminen and Gethin Jones set identical times in 10th and 11th with Matt Cotton 12th.

As Evans encountered issues with the intercom, SS2 saw Kumpumäki extend his lead over the Welshman with another fastest stage time. Fisher maintained third as Cave leap-frogged Cathcart for fourth. Elsewhere, there was disappointment for Parpottas as mechanical issues halted the Hertfordshire lad’s charge. Making it three fastest stage times in a row, Kumpumäki stretched his lead to 7.5 seconds on SS3.

Solid times from Evans and Fisher saw the Brits maintain their podium positions but a second fastest stage time from Cave saw the youngster close the gap to third to just 1.8 seconds. Solving their intercom problems to become more comfortable behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta R2, Evans and co-driver Andrew Edwards set the fastest times on SS4 and SS5 to rein Kumpumäki’s lead back to just 1.2 seconds.

Cave remained fourth as Rowe set two consecutive fourth fastest times to claim fifth spot overall. Claiming his third fastest time of the day, Evans assumed control of the rally on SS6 with a 1.2 second lead over Kumpumäki in second. Setting the second fastest stage time, Fisher increased his lead over Cave in fourth.

Positions remained much the same until SS9 when Rowe and his co-driver, James Aldridge, had an off. Despite setting some competitive times, the pairing put their Ford Fiesta R2 through a barbed-wire fence, damaging the radiator and putting an end to their rally.

There was more drama on SS10 when Fisher and co-driver Dan Barritt incurred issues with their Ford Fiesta R2 stuck in second gear. Forced to retire, Fisher’s untimely exit propelled Cave into the final podium position.

With no change at the top, Evans’ continued good form saw the Welshman set a string of fastest times to claim the Castrol Hard Charger Award for the highest number of stage wins along with the overall victory.

Elfyn said:

Overall we have had a really great rally. We had some problems with the intercom early on, so we were a bit slow off the mark. But we managed to pull back a good result and could not be happier with the hard work of the entire team. It’s a really great result for us.