Toyota technical director Tom Fowler says nothing is off the table in the search to find Elfyn Evans’ sweet spot with the GR Yaris Rally1 ahead of next season.
The Welshman has struggled to come to terms with the new generation of cars this year, going without a win for the first time since the previous decade. Evans and the team are committed to finding a solution to this dip in pace, but the 33-year-old is well aware it is very much a process of give and take.
The source of Evans’ unease comes from the regulation changes ahead of this season, with a significantly different set of rules governing the transmission. The absence of a center differential has made Rally1 machinery harder to dial and fine-tune to personal preference.
Evans explained to DirtFish: “With the previous car, if you had a slightly different style there was different diff options: you could do what you want with the center diff; you could go with negative preload front and rear… to find something that suited you was very easy.
“Now you have one ramp, no center diff – it’s the same for Tarmac and gravel and you have to make that work for all the drivers in the team. So to find something specific that makes you really happy is more difficult.”
Generally speaking, Evans has been able to mask some of the issue on gravel, but when it came to Rally Spain and the need for the sort of precise, pointy car he’s used to for running right at the sharp end of asphalt WRC competition, he ended up lost.
“Spain was tough,” he said after finishing sixth and close to two minutes behind team-mate and winner Sébastien Ogier.
“Things had to change after that.”
And change they did. Evans describes the transition to leading the next event, Rally Japan, into the final day as ‘massive’.
“I found something I was happier with,” he said. “There are areas we have to compromise on feeling and learn to drive around things a bit more, that’s what we’re looking at.
“It means a change to the driving style, you change the way you brake and steer into the corner. The bottom line is that you have to adapt: if what you do naturally works for the car then that’s easier and if what you do naturally goes against the car then it’s not [so easy].
“I think the team can see already that I’m willing and keen to get to the bottom of it. The massive step we made from Spain to Japan shows we can do something to improve.”
Fowler confirmed the process of working on re-finding Evans’ form had already begun.
He told DirtFish: “Between him, his engineer, our competition lead engineer and our team of data analysts, we have been working with him a lot more than normal, let’s say, because of this topic.
“The way in which we work is that everything is on the table. We’re not saying ‘we can’t do any special parts for you, Ogier’s fast so you just need to drive it’. And Elfyn’s not saying ‘you have to change everything because I can’t drive this car’.
“We’re trying to meet somewhere in the middle to get the best out of whatever’s possible. The limiting factor is what can you do by regulation that’s not bound by homologation. So we actually already have some things which we are working on which are, let’s say, Elfyn-specific and that is perfectly OK for us. It’s something that’s really important for us to sort out.”