Perhaps this shock therapy is exactly what Elfyn Evans needed in his career. Maybe he needed to see and realize things will sometimes align against you, and this is when you should be strongest and bring out the best in you. It is possible that a straight talk from M-Sport boss could have yielded a similar result, something like “stop messing and start delivering, and we’re being dead serious this time”, but how many such talks did Malcolm give to his young driver? We will probably never know, but in the end, Elfyn ended up in a WRC2 car, stripped of his elite WRC ranks and set to compete in a car that is almost as fast, in a category that is almost as elite. Instead of succumbing to this new pressure and giving up, Evans embraced this new job, but before he did, he made sure he turned into a Hulk. He added that mandatory layer of controlled grit and anger and aggression to his driving, all those things that were missing from his WRC car attempts. Did he need this wake-up call, in order to realize he should be digging even deeper into his talent pool? Obviously, because in his first R5 outing he showed he is fit for a car switch. Like a kid who is ahead of his classmates and you realize that the very first day of a new school year.
Did M-Sport make a mistake by demoting Elfyn? I don’t think they did. Maybe he would have found this inner strength even if not subjected to shock therapy, but M-Sport, as a business, can only rely on ifs and maybes for so long. They made their move and it seems it will go down in history as one of many clever and brilliant moves this company did over the years. They must, however, keep Elfyn in the car as much as possible, stand behind him and give him all the support he needs. There were doubts about Elfyn but if his 2016 will be anything like his driving in Monte Carlo, I think Malcolm will have a hard time keeping him demoted for too long, no matter how big or sponsor-rich drivers he may have in his A team at the moment. Elfyn most likely has all it takes to grow into a fully capable WRC driver. He just needed to prove it to himself and this R5 “demotion” did the trick, it seems.
Can we start calling him Hulk from now on? He’s perfect for the name!