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Mobil 1/Top Gear RACMSA British Rally Championship

1995 marked the first full season of competition for the Group A RS2000. There were big expectations from the Ford team in Britain, with two very talented drivers; three-time British Group N Champion, Gwyndaf Evans, and up and coming star, David Higgins. Competition in the British series was always fierce, with factory entries from Nissan, Vauxhall, Renault and Volkswagen, as well as the talents of drivers such as Dai Llewellin, Alister McRae and Robbie Head.

Vauxhall Rally of Wales

The Welsh rally of 1995 started with snow on the ground, that continued to fall throughout the first day. Evans started well, running in third position, moving up to second when Francois Delecour was forced to retire from the lead with engine failure. Unfortunately, Delecour’s luck was to rub off on his Ford counterpart; right-hand drive shaft failure lost Evans time. At the end of the stage, the shaft was replaced, only for the left-hand shaft to fail on the very next stage, leaving Evans and Davies down in sixth place at the end of the first leg. David Higgins also had a bad start to the season in the other GSE prepared Escort; retiring on stage three, leaving only Evans in the fight.

Day two saw a mild improvement in the weather; no snow and drying conditions. Evans and Davies started to push to try and make up the time lost with driveshaft issues on day one. The hard work paid off, with Evans sitting just two seconds behind twice British champion, Dai Llewellin before the final stage. With the jack and spare wheel removed, Evans was able to outpace his fellow countryman and finish fourth overall, third in Formula 2, behind Jarmo Kytolehto and Alister McRae.

Pirelli International Rally

The second round of the championship saw the teams journey north to Cumbria and the long, challenging stages of the infamous Kielder Forest complex. Sadly, the Pirelli was to be a tricky affair for Evans and Davies. They had been going well, on the pace as always, but the difficult Kielder stages soon punished them. Going through a quick right-left turn, Evans lost control and rolled into a ditch. The car was badly damaged but, thanks to the enthusiastic spectators, they managed to get out of the ditch and finish the stage. Things didn’t look good, but the GSE team worked hard and got the car patched up so the crew could continue, sitting in the 12th position by the end of day one.

Day two wasn’t much kinder to the Welsh duo, with electrical problems meaning many stops during the day to make running repairs. As the day wore on, the problems were ironed out and they began making up time, even managing to set the fastest F2 time on the final stage of the rally – there’s determination! David Higgins saw an improvement over his first outing, finishing 15th overall, just behind older brother Mark, and 12th of the F2 runners. Mark Bentley also improved after retirement on the first round, finishing fifth in his Group N class RS2000.

Perth Scottish Rally

The Scottish Rally marked the last forest round of the season. Evans was sitting fourth in the title race, so had work to do. Sadly, the challenge was short lived. The leading Ford crew had been going well again, but a tight left hand bend soon put an end to that. The car slid wide and into a ditch and that was that, Evans was out and valuable points were lost. Whilst Evans luck had run out, Higgins had a much improved rally. He went on to finish sixth overall and fourth in F2; his best result of the year. The Bentley brothers continued their good form, finishing fifth in their class again. Small mercies did help to ease the pain for Evans however; championship leader Alister McRae was forced out with electrical issues that had been dogging the Nissan team, and Dai Llewellin was sidelined with engine failure, meaning the top two drivers had also failed to score. Renault’s Alain Oreille went on to finish third in F2, leaving him in control of the championship leader board with two rounds remaining.

Stena Sealink Line Ulster Rally

A trip across the Irish Sea and a dramatic change for the championship - the first tarmac round of the year. Ulster had been kind to Evans in the past, so hopes were high for Ford here, and with good reason. Immediately on the pace, and leading the F2 runners by the end of stage five, Evans was going well. “Very pleased with that...It’s been a testing day but, you know, the pace in Formula 2 is quite hot, and we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.” By the end of day one, Higgins was running well, within the top 20, running in 15th place of the F2 entries. Elsewhere, Mark and Ed Bentley only made the fifth stage before unfortunately retiring.

Another driver making a big impression in F2 was former Irish Tarmac Champion, Kenny McKinstry. He was setting the pace early on in his own Escort, with Evans managing third fastest overall time on the first stage of day two. McKinstry went on to finish eighth overall, fourth of the F2 runners. David Higgins bad luck continued however. Despite running well on day one, he was forced to retire on stage nine, so missed out on points again. With four stages remaining, Evans was only seven seconds behind Alister McRae’s Nissan, and looking to make up the ground; “We’ll certainly try...we’re pleased to be in second place. The car’s still very new, and we’ve proved it’s on its way to being an excellent car”. McRae’s pace was too much on this occasion however, and Evans had to settle for second place in F2 behind McRae, with Frenchman Alain Oreille finishing third.

Manx International Rally

The final round of the season saw another ferry trip; this time to the Isle of Man. After a good showing on the tarmac of Ulster, there was potential for another good result for Evans. The championship was still within reach, but required McRae to trip up and finish well down the order. McRae took an early lead, but Evans was keeping pace with the title favourite, which is how they finished the first day. Lower down the order, Mark and Ed Bentley were battling on in their Group N spec RS2000, eventually finishing 34th overall, fourth in class.

On the second day, McRae dropped back slightly, leaving Evans to take over the lead of the F2 battle. Evans clearly had the pace to win, but McRae held the key to the championship, and the winning ways of his father and older brother were to continue. Evans held on throughout the third day to finish second overall to Frank Meagher in an Escort Cosworth, but winner of the F2 category. McRae was second, with Oreille in third, meaning McRae lifted the championship trophy. Evans was up to second, also giving Ford second in the manufacturer race. After victory on the Manx, Evans said “It hasn’t been so bad. We were chasing for a win on the first round and then in Ulster we were having a good old battle with Alister and it’s really nice to have won on the island.”

The 1995 title had eluded Evans and Ford, but second place was a fine result for the team’s first full season. The prospects for 1996 were good, and the RS2000 was proving itself a worthy F2 competitor.

Network Q RAC Rally

1995 saw another return to the RAC Rally for Evans and Davies. In 1994, they had taken a Formula 2 victory in only their first attempt in the RS2000. This year was to be no different, with yet another F2 trophy for the car and Evans, and a credible sixth place overall.