UK rally driver Elfyn Evans will be the star attraction at this weekend's opening round of the 2013 Australian Rally Championship in Canberra.
Tipped the most promising rally talent in the world, the 24 year-old took out both the World Rally Championship Academy and the Fiesta Sport Trophy in 2012.
In a bid to extend his dominance to our shores, Evans has been invited to pilot a Ford Fiesta R2 in the most treacherous rally on the Australian Calendar, the National Capital Rally.
We spoke with Elfyn Evans at testing earlier this week.
TMR: Here you are in a new country, with a new team and a new co-driver. How did this all come about?
Evans: Phil Coppin from R-Sport, the importers of the Ford Fiesta R2, wanted someone with experience in this type of rally car to come and drive here, and ideally show its potential to the Australian market.
It’s definitely a new experience, with new roads and a very exciting opportunity for myself and co-driver, Daniel Barritt.
You've achieved strong success in this specification of car, winning the WRC Academy and the FST. What do you enjoy about driving the Fiesta R2?
The car is so adaptable. It has a fantastic chassis, fantastic suspension, and the brakes are great. As an all-round package, I found it to be ultra-reliable and perform really well, and as such, I've never had to look elsewhere.
You have just come from sub-zero temperatures in Rally Sweden. Have you prepared for the warm Australian climate?
The warm weather isn't something we're used to, but we've prepared the best we can for it. Obviously, physical fitness is key, but also hydration before we come here is quite important.
Thinking about it today is too late - your body is dehydrated by the time you start and you don’t want to lose the battle from the start. Another thing we do is heat chamber work, back home at Silverstone.
The weather may have turned in your favour, with rain today in testing. How has that affected your impressions of the Australian terrain?
It’s quite challenging having not been here before. The surface is somewhat opposite to the UK, whereby, rain can increase grip levels. Most of the time you'll get mud in the UK, whereas here it tends to bind together.
The terrain is similar to Portugal, with the roads being narrow and some of the most technical that I've encountered.
There's a lot of shrubbery on the inside with potential for rocks and things hidden away. We've gathered in the test that it's important to be clean and tidy here.
The ARC moved to a 2WD championship this year. What are your thoughts on that decision?
The British Rally Championship went to a solely 2WD championship last year. Having seen it work in the UK, I think it is a fantastic move.
There's a lot of manufacturer interest here which not many countries have now, so Australia is very lucky in that sense. I think it's definitely a step in the right direction.
We like to think we don’t follow entirely in the UK’s footsteps… Is there anything you have noticed that is uniquely Australian?
Everybody's pretty chilled out, compared to the UK. The team's been working really hard to get everything ready, but they remain professional and calm with no panic. Everybody back home would be flapping by now.
The Ford Innate Motorsport team are hoping the Fiesta, armed with Evans at the wheel, will be in contention for the win.
The international guest will compete in 11 special stages, covering around 200 kilometres, alongside team mate Adrian Coppin.
Given Evan’s impressive success in the car, it is fair to say the Australian contingent will have to put up a fight if they want to keep the title in the country.
Find out more about the National Capital Rally at www.rally.com.au.