A year ago, Elfyn Evans dominated the World Rally Championship’s winter rally. He won five from nine stages, led from start to finish. Can he do it again?
The short answer, of course, is yes he can. He achieved his first win in a Toyota Yaris WRC in some of the most challenging conditions imaginable, with anything but the consistent grip a winter rally can offer. If he can do that when the roads are working against him, he can certainly do it when stage and tire are harmonized on the same page.
“Naturally, after a good result in the last winter event you want a good result this time as well,” Evans told DirtFish.
“What we did last year worked quite well, we’re looking for a similar feeling in the car this time as well. The conditions weren’t perfect in Sweden [last year], but I got good confidence and speed from the car.
“The conditions this time around will be different, we’ll have a lot of snow and really the perfect winter roads.
“In terms of starting position, from what we’ve seen on previous snowy rallies, we could expect to see some cleaning, so it might be a disadvantage to run further up the road, but let’s wait and see. I’ll give it my all regardless.”
What’s even better for the Welshman is that he arrives in the Arctic Circle on the back of his best ever start to the championship. And the best start for any British driver ever in the World Rally Championship. Evans’ second in Monte came after his third place on the same event 12 months earlier. The only other Brit to match that is Colin McRae – but his 2003 Monte Carlo result ended up being his only podium of the season.
In fact, if you want to better Evans’ result in the mountains, you have to scroll back 53 years to Vic Elford’s win in 1968.
So, why was the tone of my interview with him so downbeat? Almost subconsciously, I was talking about second being a negative. How so? The simple fact is that I expected more from him. After leading the Monte for so long in 2020, I expected him to take more of a fight to then seven-time event winner Sébastien Ogier.
And that speaks volumes about Evans’ progression as a driver and a WRC competitor.
“I didn’t go to that rally to play second fiddle to him (Ogier), that wasn’t something we discussed,” Evans said.
“It just happened naturally. It was almost subconscious that when it was really edgy, I wasn’t ready to take the big risks. I’m not saying Séb was taking big risks, but when you look at the stages in the Col de Perty area, when we were on the shiny tar and it was quite tricky – that was where he took chunks of time.
“I think I found the balance between risk and reward. Séb found the same formula, but he just found it faster! We saw this a little bit last year, he would have his weekends and I would have mine. It’s the Arctic next week, then the following rallies, every one of them starts with a clean sheet of paper.”