Elfyn Evans fears his chances of becoming the 2021 World Rally Champion could be over, after being outscored by Sébastien Ogier on the Ypres Rally, but insists he won’t drive as if that’s the case.
For the first time since winning Rally Portugal three months ago, Evans finished ahead of his Toyota team-mate and championship leader Ogier in Belgium but lost third place to his other team-mate, Kalle Rovanperä, on the final day.
Evans had been the lead Toyota throughout before the stages at Spa-Francorchamps but felt he “just didn’t hit the nail on the head” when the rally headed south-east, admitting it was “particularly sore” to end the rally that way.
The position loss proved costly in terms of the championship as dropping to fourth cost Evans three points, and then a scrappy powerstage run – in which Ogier was second and Evans only fifth – meant that despite finishing one place ahead of Ogier, Evans actually scored one less point than him on Ypres.
I just haven’t been firing fully on all cylinders. Not really a reason behind it, but of course we need to get on the front foot reallyElfyn Evans on his recent form
It leaves Evans with a 38-point deficit to Ogier with four rounds remaining, and Hyundai’s Ypres Rally winner Thierry Neuville is now level with Evans on points.
Asked by DirtFish if he was still concentrating on his own title aspirations or focusing more on ensuring Toyota claims its first manufacturers’ title since 2018, Evans said he’ll approach rallies in the same manner regardless of the primary objective.
“My aspirations are still to do as well as possible,” he said. “I think if you want good results, you have to drive at your very best.
“It’s ultra-competitive and that’s just the way. Of course we know the championship is more or less, I wouldn’t say decided, but it’s looking more and more that way. We are realistic about that, let’s say, but it doesn’t change the mindset as such.”
Evans’ campaign has lost momentum since clipping a rock on Safari Rally Kenya’s first morning of action.
While he managed to salvage four points from that weekend, Ogier won his fourth rally of the season and built a healthy advantage that has since ballooned when Evans had a poor Rally Estonia.
Evans hasn’t looked totally at ease with his Yaris WRC for most of the season, but finished in the top two in four of the first five rallies of the year to amass a strong, early points total and still has the best average finishing position of anyone.
“The start of the year was pretty strong, and OK we came into a few results by being quite consistent, let’s say,” Evans said.
“Still, the pace was good and winning a lot of stages. This time, or [on the] last few rallies, obviously it hasn’t been the case.
“Obviously with a strong start to the year comes the road order thing as well, which obviously hasn’t helped on some rallies, but that’s not the whole picture.
“But yeah, just haven’t been firing fully on all cylinders. Not really a reason behind it, but of course we need to get on the front foot really.”
The final four rounds of the championship are currently the Acropolis, Finland, Spain and an all-new challenge in Japan.
Evans has competed on the Acropolis before but only once and in an R2 car, although he’s finished on the podium in both Spain and Finland for M-Sport in previous years.