Toyota’s Elfyn Evans wishes he could have benefited from entering a national rally like some of his World Rally Championship rivals did ahead of Rally Sweden.
A reduction in the number of testing days each Rally1 driver can use this season has prompted teams to start looking at events outside the WRC to give their drivers extra mileage and seat time.
Evans’ team-mate Takamoto Katsuta and Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi therefore both took on the Kuopio Rally in Finland last week in a bid to replicate the snowy conditions of Sweden, while M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tänak headed home to Estonia and the Otepää Winter Rally for the same reason.
Evans admitted he hasn’t “given a lot of thought” as to where he could potentially take his GR Yaris Rally1 this season, but suggested he would have liked to have done a national event before Sweden given how specific the challenge is.
“It was not offered this time,” Evans told DirtFish.
“Of course, we have to look at that for the future but with such limited testing and with it being such a specific event, like if you can get some mileage beforehand of course it’s going to help.”
The times on Thursday’s shakedown stage certainly displayed the benefit of the added seat time.
After the first pass Lappi, Katsuta and Tänak were the three fastest drivers and Lappi in particular looked super strong, missing out on the benchmark time by just one tenth to reigning world champion Kalle Rovanperä.
Lappi described his national rally outing as “very eye opening” as he was able to discover “fresh behavior” from pushing his i20 N Rally1 to the limit.
He told DirtFish after shakedown: “I had the advantage to do the rally last weekend which… well, some other drivers did as well but this helped me to understand the behavior of the car when you drive it on the limit.
💬 "It's only shakedown!"
— DirtFish (@DirtFishRally) February 9, 2023
“I think this was immediately shown in the pace that we had this morning that I’m quite confident already, but yeah for sure it gives also self confidence that we can do good times and still it doesn’t feel too crazy.
“So for sure, we are in a better position at the moment with better understanding than in Monte Carlo.”
Lappi’s shakedown performance has earmarked him as a victory threat this weekend, but he was keen to bat away such conversation.
“We need to remember it’s only a shakedown, it’s not a race yet,” he said.
“It only matters when you are doing the stage at the same time as the others, but we managed to be competitive so it’s promising.
“We will see tomorrow.”