Elfyn Evans has seen this before. He knows what Sébastien Ogier looks like when he’s going through the gears and moving into championship mode. He knows, if he’s to stand any chance of lifting this year’s title, he’s got to derail a French express train apparently heading towards title number eight.
Ahead of the recent Safari Rally Kenya, Ogier had established an 11-point lead over his Toyota team-mate. Coming out the other side of the Naivasha-based event, that margin had mushroomed to 34 points courtesy of a ‘clumsy’ mistake from Evans and another inspired and controlled drive from the seven-time champion.
Evans’ championship challenge remains in his own hands, but he knows those hands have to reach the finish of most of the remaining World Rally Championship rounds ahead of Ogier.
“Yes,” Evans told DirtFish, “we need wins, but I’ve said this all of last year and this season – you can only do your best. The reality of needing to score points is there and the biggest difference in points come when you take a win.
“He’s had a very strong start to the year and definitely a few things have gone Séb’s way, but he’s also created a lot of those things himself. Sardinia, for example, was very, very impressive.
“For sure, we need to claw back some points, that’s without question and we need to do that before he starts to manage the thing. There is still a very long way to go and we know how quickly things can change around, but we need to put some points down.”
Evans admits he’s happy to see the back of Kenya, an event he didn’t take much driving pleasure from.
“You don’t really when you’re in the position I was in,” he said. “I made the mistake and that was the end of it. When you’re driving around in those rough events, it’s not really the same feeling in the car.”
Which is why he’s looking forward to this month’s Rally Estonia.
“I am looking forward to high-speed events again,” he said. “On these rallies, the feeling in the car is very important and I think all of us struggled a little bit last year and it was to everybody’s shock that Hyundai was so strong [with Ott Tänak and Craig Breen finishing 1-2 in Estonia].
“Last year, I went to Lõuna-Eesti [Ralli] and made a golf ball of it. That’s not the best preparation but we should be coming in in a slightly different frame of mind this timeElfyn Evans
“Last year, the feeling in our car wasn’t perfect and, like always, with those high-speed rallies, you need the ultimate confidence.”
The Toyota team has tested for Rally Estonia already, with Evans focusing on a more technical, twisty Estonian road – which is where it was felt the Yaris WRC was struggling to keep pace with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Tartu last year.
“The test road was quite a slow one,” Evans said, “but in that condition, I found quite good confidence. We just need to see what it’s like in the high speed, but overall we should be in a bit of a better position than we were last year.
“Last year, I went to Lõuna-Eesti [Ralli] and made a golf ball of it. That’s not the best preparation. When you have a big one like that, it doesn’t matter how much you put it to the back of your mind, you’ve still had a fairly big shunt and to have a second one in as many weeks wouldn’t have been ideal. But we should be coming in in a slightly different frame of mind this time.”
Can Evans do it, or is Ogier already too far ahead to be caught? Let us know in the comments.