Elfyn Evans has conceded that stealing Ypres Rally Belgium victory from Ott Tänak would’ve required either a “proper brains-out job or a miracle”.
Evans secured his fourth second place of the 2022 World Rally Championship after runner-up finishes in Portugal, Kenya and Estonia, falling short in Belgium by just five seconds.
He began the final day 8.2 seconds down on Tänak but with just four stages left to run, he would have needed to take, on average, two seconds out of Tänak on each test to grab the win – and on a rally like Ypres that was always going to be a “tall order”.
You can't live your life on ifs and buts. Rallying; it's part of the game.Elfyn Evans on his 10s late check-in penalty
Evans told DirtFish: “Eight seconds on these types of roads you would need either a proper brains-out job or a miracle.
“Of course we needed to keep the pressure on to keep Ott having to drive pretty quickly but finally it wasn’t quite enough.”
It means Evans has now gone 11 events without a WRC win – by far his longest drought since joining Toyota in 2020.
But Evans was in the fight throughout Ypres Rally, leading after the second stage when team-mate and championship leader Kalle Rovanperä crashed out. Thierry Neuville then took charge before he too crashed out on Saturday.
Victory could theoretically have been Evans’ had two key moments not taken place: Firstly, had he not picked up a slow puncture on Friday afternoon that forced him to run a rain tire in dry conditions, or if co-driver Scott Martin hadn’t checked the pair into SS8 one minute late.
That offense earned Evans a 10s time penalty. Tänak’s final margin of victory was exactly half that.
“Yeah, sure, but you can’t live your life on ifs and buts,” Evans said. “Rallying; it’s part of the game.
“There’ve been quite a few over my career that have been close but there’s no point to dwell, you just learn from perhaps what didn’t work out and try to be better next time.”
Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala confessed it was “disappointing” not to win but second and third, with Esapekka Lappi completing the podium, was still a positive result for the team as it yet again outscored Hyundai despite Tänak taking victory.
“Sometimes you also need to be looking a little bit at the bigger picture, not the small picture which like a driver I used to do sometimes. I try to be more clever now these days!” Latvala told DirtFish.
“At the end, yeah, of course you are disappointed when you can’t win. But we knew that we had only four stages today, and the difference was eight seconds.
“Elfyn did really good, a really good run and he could catch one second and then half a second on the next stage [but] it’s not enough.
“You have to be more than two seconds [faster] per stage. The stages are short; it’s very, very difficult.
“Unfortunately there was some time penalty and a puncture with Elfyn which cost him some time, I think without that he would have had an even bigger chance to fight for victory,” Latvala added.
“Honestly you never know if it would have been enough for the victory, but OK, you can say if. Things happen in a rally, you have to accept them and the result is like this.
“But the main thing when you look is Elfyn has driven really well, they had a great performance.”