18/03/2024 Off By admin

The covers are off, Llanwrdra (Wales) based Melvyn Evans Motorsport (MEM) will field a two-car team in the 2024 Motorsport UK Probite British Rally Championship with a pair of brand new Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 specification machines bringing the Iconic Toyota – Castrol partnership back to rallying.

Designed and built by World Rally Team outfit, Toyota Gazoo Racing, Melvyn Evans Motorsport will be the first to field such a car on the British stages.

After the Rally2 specification of the Japanese marque achieved homologation last year it has since appeared on the world stage with customer-based teams, now the British Rally fans will be able to see the GR Yaris Rally2 compete in Britain’s premier multi-surface rally championship, the BRC.

Xlerate spoke with team boss Melvyn Evans ahead of the new season:

So Melvyn, why the Yaris? Given that you’ve run Polos very successfully in recent years, isn’t it something of an unknown to bring the Yaris to the opening round of the BRC with such a short timescale?

“We’ve had a good relationship with Castrol over the last few years and we had some conversations last year about trying to re-establish the Toyota/Castrol link and here we are! The Polo has been a great car for us but Toyota clearly built a great car and it’s an opportunity to build a good relationship going forward. We’re grateful to Toyota for trusting us with an early car and it’s great to bring the legendary Toyota/Castrol link back to rallying.”

MEM has also continued to secure backing from motoring oil giant Castrol, a name that has been synonymous with motorsport and indeed rallying over many decades; the car will carry the iconic Castrol livery in a nod to this rallying past.

How did the relationship with Castrol form? Meirion has carried their brand on the Polo in recent years, but how keen were they to get involved this season? and how important do you think is it for them to continue their rich motorsport heritage by getting involved in British Rallying?

“The relationship started a few years ago and we’ve had a lot of success together. But the Toyota and Castrol names go hand in hand and it’s probably one of the most legendary liveries ever on a rally car. So to bring all that back to life is very exciting for us and for Castrol.”

The team has had a successful past few years competing in the British Rally Championship, winning driver’s & team championships in 2021 with Matt Edwards and in 2022 with Osian Pryce at the wheel of their VW Polo GTi R5 cars.

Having secured both Drivers and Team titles in the BRC in recent years, is that the target this year?

“Of course, it’s always the target to win. We have two good drivers who are proven winners at this level but the level of the BRC this year is higher than ever so it will be far from easy.”

Melvyn’s son, Meirion who spent most of last year in Ireland competing in the fiercely competitive Irish Tarmac Championship will carry the honors as the first driver to compete in a Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 on a British event, he will be joined in the team by current WRC2 Driver Chris Ingram, for the teams British Rally Championship assault.

Merion, have you driven the Yaris yet? If so, what are your first impressions?

“We have done a small run with the car. Initial impression is quite good to be honest, the chassis doesn’t feel massively dissimilar to the Polo but the engine is quite difference but we managed to adapt quite well I think.”

Chris is a previous European Champion and will be joining the team, how might the team dynamic be, could his experience in Europe perhaps help you in any way?

“Myself and Chris have been friends since we were both very young, and have always stayed in touch and get on well. He obviously has a lot of experience and is very fast. Hopefully we can work together for the benefit of both of us.”

What’s your target for the opening round and the season as a whole?

“The plan is to compete in the full BRC season. Obviously I’ve predominantly rallied in Ireland lately but the BRC will offer a mix of surfaces and rallying on gravel is something I’ve missed recently. It’s hard to know, the car feels good but obviously we lack time in it compared to almost everyone else at the moment. But if we can adapt quickly we can hopefully get a good result this weekend and build on it as the season goes on and challenge at the front.”

Only one Yaris has arrived in the UK in time for the opening round of the season, The North West Stages (March 23rd); therefore Ingram will contest in the VW Polo GTi R5 alongside Co-Driver Alex Kihurani.

Ingram, of course, boasts an impressive rallying C.V. having become the first British Rally driver in some 50+ years to secure the European Rally title, Ingram also won the North West Stages previously when it last ran in 2022, and will therefore wear the No1 on his doors, Xlerate spoke with Chris ahead of the season:

Melvyn and the team are a proven outfit here in the UK having won both the BRC drivers and teams titles previously, do you think that you and the team could target those same results this year?

Yes absolutely. We will have strong competition from the likes of M-Sport who are putting a lot of resources behind some of our rivals, but I have no doubt we will be a strong team. One of the main attractions to joining MEM was to benefit from their experience in the UK, and it’s weirdly the first time I’ll get to work with a British team. The atmosphere within the team is great already, which is so important and is hard to find. Melvyn is so genuine, knowledgeable, and experienced and I’m looking forward to getting to work with the whole team.”

Could there perhaps be an opportunity to drive the Yaris with the team in some WRC rounds, with some backing from Castrol?

That is definitely a target for the near future, but for now, we will put full focus into the BRC. This is the priority for 2024. It’s a dream come true to represent such an iconic brand in the new look British Rally Championship.

 Are you committed to the full six BRC rounds?

Yes indeed. I am really looking forward to compete at every event to be honest. There are some classic events and competing every month or so will give me the chance to drive consistently which I’ve not had for quite a few years due to the massive budgets required to compete at ERC/WRC2 level.

What’s your target for the opening round and the season as a whole?

My target for the season is to fight for the championship of course. No driver in history has ever won both the British and European Rally Championships. Alex and I will face some serious competition, former champions and of course Meirion, even though we are helping one another as teammates, but we will give it our best shot. Regarding the opening round, I hope my experience of the event will give me an extra edge.” 

Weight1,230kg (including 1 spare tyre) acc. to FIA regulations
ConstructionSteel body with high-strength roll cage acc. to FIA regulations
Engine & Transmission
TypeIn-line three-cylinder, turbocharger
Displacement1,618.2 cc
Engine ManagementBosch Motorsport ECU
TransmissionSadev 5-speed sequential transmission
DifferentialMotorsport-specification limited-slip differential
Suspension, Steering, & Brakes
Front SuspensionMacPherson strut
Rear suspensionMacPherson strut
Shock AbsorbersREIGER adjustable racing dampers
SteeringHydraulic rack and pinion
Brake CaliperAlcon Four-piston racing calipers
Brake RotorsGravel:Φ300mm / Tarmac:Φ355mm , Φ300mm
Brake PadsENDLESS racing brake pads
Tires Front/RearTarmac 235/40 R18 / Gravel 205/65 R15 (Pirelli)

The 2024 Probit Motorsport UK British Rally Championship will feature six challenging events across both loose and sealed surfaces this year, beginning with an Asphalt event on the closed roads at the Legend Fires North West Stages on March 23rd. The Championship has attracted a bumper entry for the opening round and will also see a highlights programme air on terrestrial television in the United Kingdom and The Republic of Ireland (on the ITV4/ITVX platform) throughout the year. Melvyn Evans Motorsport (MEM) will be joined by a top lineup of British Rally talent including World Rally Team outfit, M-Sport, who won the drivers title last year with Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux at the wheel of its Ford Fiesta Rally2.