COULD there be a home winner of this week’s much-anticipated Wales Rally GB?
Fans will be hoping there is, with North Walian Elfyn Evans and Ulsterman Kris Meeke in the mix to claim the top honour.
In theory, Meeke arrives for this week’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB on the crest of a wave after winning the previous round of this year’s pulsating FIA World Rally Championship earlier this month in Spain. But, in reality, this has been an erratic campaign for the 38-year-old from Dungannon, who started the year as one of the title favourites.
Victories in both Spain and Mexico cannot mask what, overall, has been a frustrating season.
“It’s (the win in Spain) certainly boosted our season. We had a fairly difficult period in the middle of the year and the win has boosted morale within the team,” said Meeke.
“Hopefully, we can now carry that confidence forward.
“It’s impossible to say (how we’ll do) and to judge what the car will be like; indeed, what the weather conditions will be like... we know our lowly road position of ninth (his championship position) on Friday is not ideal for having a competitive edge, as running near to the front on this event is an advantage.
“Predictions aside, the only thing I have to do is my very best – as I always do. The important thing is to get a good finish.”
Meeke added: “For me the changes to year’s itinerary are really good.
“We need good long days like this on Rally GB, and rallying into the darkness is something pretty special.
“This is probably the only event in the year where we have can have gravel stages at night, as there are no problems with dust.
“The atmosphere is great and Rally GB should always be about endurance as well as creating a spectacle.
“It’s going to be a long, tricky weekend, as it always is, but everyone should enjoy it.”
Wales’ most successful rally driver David Llewellin is tipping his fellow countryman Elfyn Evans for great success – and even an historic victory
Although a number of Welsh co-drivers have won Britain’s classic round of the FIA World Rally Championship, no Welsh driver has ever stood on the podium, let alone won their home event.
Indeed, no British driver has triumphed since Colin McRae and Richard Burns racked up three wins apiece in the glory years between 1994-2000.
Llewellin, a double British rally champion in 1989 and 1990, led the event briefly when competing for Toyota in 1989, but ultimately never finished higher than sixth.
Now aged 57, the former champ said: “It would be fantastic to see Elfyn do it this year and I think he has a very good chance.
“I’ve been watching him closely and he’s been improving over the last 18 months – he’s shown he’s one of the best in the world. If things work for him, we could see a Welsh winner.”
Evans, who missed last year’s event while securing a top drive for 2017, already has two top-six Wales Rally GB finishes under his belt.
Now, as a member of the title-hunting M-Sport squad, he has underlined his potential with second places in both Argentina and Finland – two loose surface rounds that are not dissimilar to the tricky conditions found in the legendary Welsh forests.
The Dayinsure Wales Rally GB will run between October 26 and 29.
For full details, go to the www.walesrallygb.com website.