World Rally Championship title contender Elfyn Evans said he should shoulder the blame for his failure to stay with Thierry Neuville in the battle for the Rally Spain lead on Saturday.
Having begun the leg just 0.7 seconds behind the Hyundai and having led for most of Friday, Toyota driver Evans ended day two 16.4s adrift of Neuville.
While Evans admitted the Toyota’s set-up had not given him the required confidence on Saturday, he said ultimately his drop away from victory contention was primarily his responsibility.
“I wasn’t on my very, very best today and unfortunately I can only blame myself for that,” Evans told DirtFish.
“OK you need a car underneath you as well but it just didn’t happen.
“We’re focused on being better tomorrow and what will be will be.”
He also felt adjustments made for the afternoon made the car worse rather than better.
“We then took a further bit of a gamble on the lunchtime service, bring some help to the dirtier parts,” Evans explained.
“I think we managed to get an improvement to some areas of the car but unfortunately compromised other areas that were working quite OK before.
“But that was a gamble that we obviously discussed and talked about together and it didn’t pay off this time.”
At present, Evans is on course to keep the WRC championship fight open until the Monza finale as team-mate and title rival Sébastien Ogier needs to outscore him in Spain by at least six points to wrap up his eighth and likely final championship this weekend.
Ogier struggled for pace on day one and was an increasingly distant third as Evans initially led, even coming under pressure from Hyundai’s Dani Sordo behind.
A win for Evans with Ogier fourth would’ve allowed the Welshman to take a 13-point bite out of his team-mate’s 24-point advantage, before powerstage bonuses were considered.
But they begin Sunday second and third, which only equates to a three-point swing in Evans’s favor and – powerstage scores aside – would mean Ogier could head to Monza under relatively little pressure.
That’s the sort of calculation Evans is always adamant he isn’t doing.
“I have no idea what stuff is happening and at the end of the day I can only do what I can do,” he said when asked if he was thinking about championship permutations.
He therefore wouldn’t have been watching the gap between Ogier and Sordo ebb and flow through leg two.
Ogier had lacked confidence in the Toyota through Friday but made a breakthrough just as Evans’s feeling with the car went in the opposite direction on Saturday lunchtime.
That allowed Ogier to start equalling leader Neuville’s pace and pull 6.9s clear of Sordo, only for a puzzling stall on the leg-closing Salou superspecial to reduce that gap to 1.2s again.
“It’s frustrating because we finally had a good car this afternoon and I think I had a good pace and managed to make a small gap to Dani but it’s all gone in this hairpin,” Ogier told DirtFish.
“At least the most positive thing is I have a car that suits me now and I think I have the tools to stay ahead of him tomorrow.
“It’s more exciting like this. He told me ‘thank you’ [for losing time again] and I said ‘it’s better for the suspense…'”
But Sordo is pessimistic about his chances of winning that fight on Sunday.
“He’s world champion, I’m not,” said Sordo. “You know the mind of Ogier, he’s like ‘bam bam bam bam bam’.
“I can see and feel already in the afternoon he will push because he starts to talk a little bit less. I say ‘now it’s coming’.”