British rally driver Elfyn Evans knows he can’t prepare for everything when pushing his Ford Fiesta to stomach-churning speeds during World Rally Championship races around the globe.
As recently as March, the M-Sport driver had been the victim of a cruel twist of fate when he appeared to be on the verge of sealing the second WRC win of his career, only to suffer a puncture in the final stage in Corsica and eventually limp home in third place.
“To come so close and be denied by a little pothole like that is frustrating but then it’s part of the sport, you can’t begrudge the circumstances,” Elfyn told us when we chatted with him recently.
The 30-year-old remained philosophical despite the near-miss and while he can’t always prepare for everything the roads might throw at him, he knows his personal hydration needs are in good hands…
Feeling HOT, HOT, HOT…
Elfyn took an Advanced Sweat Test with PH a few years ago and has been using PH 1000 ever since. “I’m definitely using PH to replace what I lose in my sweat,” said Elfyn. “During the rallies there will be a bit of pre-loading during the recce and I tend to have it [PH] in my Camelbak.”
With the focus on appeasing the engineers by keeping any additional weight inside the car to an absolute minimum, Elfyn tends to carry the fluids he needs in his Camelbak and has been feeling the benefits of preloading.
“I try and preload with PH because obviously we’ll sweat a lot - we get temperatures of up to 40-50 degrees [Celsius] (104-122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the car, so it can get very hot.”
While a trip to Sardinia or Turkey for a week sounds quite appealing to most of us, the conditions in the car during rallies at such destinations can be brutal and Elfyn needs to be feeling in peak condition.
“The big thing I found when I switched to Precision Hydration was the brands that I used before always gave me upset stomachs and things. Because you’re not just doing one training session and replenishing that, you’re drinking away at it all weekend, you get to about Saturday afternoon and you find your stomach is doing cartwheels and you’re really not feeling so good because they have so much other things, like tons of carbs and all of that sort of stuff, in them.
“Whereas I find with Precision Hydration I don’t feel bad after it, I still manage to feel good and that is a big thing for me on a long weekend, with a rally starting on Thursday and not finishing until Sunday. So I need to be comfortable with what I’m drinking and that’s why I like the product because it doesn’t make me feel ill or uncomfortable in any way.”
Where Does A Rally Driver Go When Nature Calls?
Before we’re accused of turning this piece into a complete PH love-in, let’s change tact and ask the obvious question on everyone’s lips - what does he do when ‘nature calls’ mid-race?
“To be honest the stages don’t tend to be so, so long. The longest is normally 25-30 minutes so when you’re concentrating really hard and really going for it, it would have to be pretty bad for that [wetting yourself in the car] to creep in. To be honest, during the road sections we have the freedom to just pull over and do what we have to do really.”
We’ve got the hydration and toilet stops covered, but how does a world-class rally driver keep fit?
“I do a bit of everything really. With rallying there’s not a specific sport that gives you everything you need. It’s not just a case of running or cycling, there’s a lot of different challenges we face in the car.”
While running and cycling provide the basis for Elfyn’s physical fitness, there are additional benefits to his exercise regime.
“I think the main thing is the tiredness and the ability to keep concentration, so that works quite well with mountain biking - if you’re out for three hours, you start getting tired, you still need to concentrate and that type of thing,” revealed Elfyn. “I think that element works and another part of it is the impacts we get through our bodies due to the rough terrain, so we have to have a strong core and strong neck.”
Like a runner, cyclist or triathlete, rally drivers also need to acclimatise to the heat when travelling to warmer climates for races, which isn’t always easy when you hail from the small market town of Dolgellau in north-west Wales.
“The other side of it of course is the ability to deal with the heat. Sometimes we try and get the turbo trainer in somewhere a bit hotter to try and acclimatise. I’ve got the turbo trainer and insulation bulbs set up in my garage at the moment to help to adapt to the heat we will face.
“There’s a lot of different demands on the body from different rallies. You try and do a bit of everything to keep a good overall level of fitness, rather than be a super runner or a super weight-lifter. We need to do a bit of everything so we’re covered. Even being reasonably strong is important because the gravel wheels are 25 kilos, so hauling them around in a rush means you need to be able to manage. Having an overall blanket is good for me when it comes to physical training.”
Elfyn hails from rally royalty - his father is the former British rally champion, Gwyndaf Evans - and the next challenge for the Welsh star will be to claim another WRC victory after claiming the first win of his career in Wales in 2017, a victory that was all the more special as it was in his homeland - “to finally get it done, at home, in front of all of your family and friends, was nice.”
Despite being hailed as a future World Rally Championship winner in the making by many pundits, Elfyn has stayed true to his roots with his choice of car when back home. “I’ve got a really old Focus. All of my road cars have been left-hand drive since I started competing and it’s still the same now. They’re not so easy to find in the UK, they’re normally very overpriced, so I just have a little ‘run around’ and it’s normally sat in an airport car park for weeks at a time anyway.”
Whether sticking with left-handed cars or preparing his hydration strategy, Elfyn leaves nothing to chance in his quest for success. Hopefully the potholes and hard-luck stories of Corsica are behind him as he bids to add more WRC wins to his burgeoning CV...