Toyota’s Elfyn Evans admits “it came as a bit of a shock” that he suffered such poor tire wear on Saturday’s second loop of Rally Turkey.
Evans was something of a silent partner in the lead battle on Saturday morning. Although he didn’t set a single fastest time, he lurked just 12.3 seconds away from the lead held at that point by Sébastien Ogier.
But excessive wear on the long 19.5-mile stage that started the afternoon loop caused Evans significant issues. His 11.1s time loss to new leader Thierry Neuville wasn’t major, and he actually moved up to second as Ogier’s Yaris developed it’s electrical fault, but the damage done to his tires was telling.
A time 28.4s off the benchmark and the slowest of all the Rally1 runners on the day’s final stages illustrated the extent of the problem that Evans did well to hide from stage-end reporters as the rally was progressing.
“It came as a bit of a surprise to me as well to be honest,” he said, when asked how he had managed to abuse his tires so much at the end of the leg.
“I’m not normally the best but I’m not normally the worst [at tire management, I’m] somewhere in the middle where it’s normally quite OK, so it came as a bit of a shock to have so much wear after that first one and obviously we paid a really high price for it after.
“When I did the rally back in 2018 obviously we had high wear in this stage but nothing like we did today, so it’s a mistake from me to arrive with such high wear and obviously we’ve paid the price for it then [on] the following two [stages].”
Speaking to DirtFish, he added: “We need to study it to find out exactly why it was so bad.
“I didn’t drive completely recklessly all the way through, but there’s something in the style that’s not suiting the car, or I’m not managing the tire well.
“The next two stages were difficult, because we had two new [tires] to put on, but the two that came off the front were good for nothing, and the two other tires were heavily worn. It’s then a case of trying to manage the situation to get back.”
Evans attempted to repair a worn tire on the road section between stages, describing the delamination as being “all the way down to the canvas basically”.
But the biggest adjustment he made was to his driving style, as he didn’t dare push too hard as a puncture – with no useful spare – would be even more costly and potentially cause a retirement.
“You just get all sorts of issues because there’s delamination, there’s not a lot you can do really,” he told DirtFish.
“It’s only that you try to put a bit more air and all that sort of stuff in them to try to protect it.
“But ultimately we knew if we went and pushed on as normal, that we probably would get a puncture very early in the stage and then the time loss would be massive. So it was just a case of trying to get through at least without losing minutes.”
Evans will start Sunday’s stages just over a minute shy of Neuville’s rally lead but, perhaps more pertinently, is 27.6s adrift of Ogier in second.
Evans is currently nine points behind his team-mate in the championship, so getting past him would be useful for his title aspirations.
“There’s going to be some management,” he said.
“I don’t think you can throw caution to the wind, I don’t think the car will take it. It’s going to have to be a balance for everybody tomorrow in that long stage.
“Anything can happen, it’s all up in the air. It’s a very challenging stage, and it’s very easy to move backwards, but there’s also an opportunity to move forwards. So we have to go and do our best.”