As a British Rally Champion and former factory Ford and SEAT World Rally Championship driver, Gwyndaf Evans knows what it takes to make it to the top of the sport. He knew his son Elfyn was good. But how good?
A trip to Finland in 2011 told him everything he needed to know.
“Elfyn was doing Finland in the Fiesta R2 car,” said Gwyndaf. “There was a test just before the event and I said I’d go in the car with him. Wow. His car control was all there. It’s been a long journey to get where we are, but I think we really touched on something that day in Finland. It was when I realised that Elfyn really had something. I knew there was something there when I got out of the car.”
It’s fair to say there were a number of ups and downs in the years that followed, but Evans Sr remains convinced you learn from both extremes of a rollercoaster ride.
“The peaks and the troughs,” he said, “they make you stronger. When you have a problem and you get low, it makes you want to get better and learn from it. And when you experience the high, you just want to go even higher.”
Rallying has been at the centre of Elfyn’s world since he was born. He was just over six months old when his father won his first ever British Championship, the 1989 Ulster Rally. He was seven when Gwyndaf took the title.
But some of his earliest memories are actually of another British rally superstar. Colin McRae.
“I remember going into Sweet Lamb on the RAC and seeing all the fireworks as Colin came through,” said Elfyn. “But I also remember at that time, dad was driving for SEAT and he brought the Cordoba WRC back to the garage after the test and it stayed there for the night.”
Sitting in a World Rally Car would make an impression on most 10-year-olds. It certainly did with Elfyn.
But it would be a while before he enjoyed four-wheel drives and turbocharging for himself.
“Dad was pretty strict in the way we went about it,” he said. “I had to show that I’d got to the limit of one car before we would go on to the next.”
That common sense approach worked a treat.
“He progressed all the time,” said Evans Sr. “He went from the Micra to the Fiesta and then from the [Fiesta] ST to the R2, but only once he was wringing the neck of the previous car.”
In 2012 he certainly did that, landing the FIA Junior WRC title at the wheel of a Fiesta R2.
An R5 car and a deal with M-Sport beckoned and Gwyndaf’s work was done. Almost. Father and son still work closely, with Gwyndaf carrying out gravel-note duties for the current world championship leader on asphalt WRC rounds.