Elfyn Evans had started Rally Italy brightly, getting stuck into a three-way battle for the lead with fellow Toyota driver Esapekka Lappi and Hyundai’s Ott Tänak.
Championship leader Kalle Rovanperã, meanwhile, was flailing around in the loose gravel of the first stage of Friday morning as first car on the road, and sinking backwards quickly.
So all looked set for a golden opportunity for Evans to get his title aspirations back on the road and narrow the gap.
Then a very solid bit of road on Monti di Ala e Budduso ruined everything. That solid bit of road punctured the sump guard on Evans’ Toyota GR Yaris.
“Everything was fine, but then in a fast place we had quite a bad compression through a dip – quite unexpected to be as strong as it was – but unfortunately it’s damaged something on the water system. So we can’t go any further, unfortunately,” he explained to DirtFish.
Evans had nursed the Yaris through the last six miles of stage three in the hope he’d be able to find a way to continue. Alas, there would be no fix.
It was an unexpected surprise – mostly because that same bump had caused no issues whatsoever in years past. They knew to watch for it but not that it could bite so hard.
“We’d been through it many times actually, and in both directions. We know it’s not nothing but normally [it is] not a problem. But clearly not the case this year,” Evans said.
The question now is whether he and co-driver Scott Martin will be able to return under SuperRally on Saturday and line up a shot at maximum powerstage points on Sunday.
But with engine temperatures bubbling up and signs of some oil leaking from his Yaris, it’s still unclear whether he’ll be back out on Sardinia’s stages at all.
“I don’t know, the guys are going to have to look. I think we tried to manage the temperatures as best we can, but it’s always difficult to know what’s really going on. So until we get back to service it’s hard to say.”