World Rally Championship leader Elfyn Evans has completed his first meaningful test of a gravel-specification Toyota Yaris WRC.
The Welshman has just driven the car for two days in Spain, dialing himself into the Rally Mexico requirements of the season’s first gravel encounter.
Evans, who won the recent Rally Sweden on only his second WRC outing for Toyota, was the third and final Toyota driver to run the car in the Almería region of southern Spain. Sébastien Ogier also drove the car for two days, with Kalle Rovanperä running for one before Evans began his test on Sunday.
“It wasn’t my very first time in the car on gravel,” Evans told DirtFish. “I did a half-day, sort of a taster, last year on some rough gravel. But this was the first representative test I’d done.
“It was good. Because we were the third car into the test, we were able to use the data and the work done by the other two before us. The set-up for the first run was a combination of what the team knows about Mexico and the set-up Séb and Kalle had used earlier in the week.”
While Evans utilized two test roads, one stage had to be shortened which meant he didn’t get as much high-speed running as he would have liked.
“Both roads were pretty OK,” he added. “It would have been nice to have done some more high-speed, but it’s Mexico and, with the altitude, the speeds are never going to be as massive as they might be on some other events.”
As usual, the team detuned the test car in an effort to replicate the power loss which will come with running stages around 12,000 feet in Guanajuato next month.
“The teams all do what they can in terms of the power,” Evans explained, “and, to be honest, these cars aren’t so bad. The previous generation World Rally Car did tend to feel quite slow, but these are still pretty OK.”
Evans is confident the Toyota team has rid itself of the altitude and heat-related issues which had plagued its visits to Rally Mexico since 2017.
“We could see from Ott [Tänak]’s pace last year that they’re over that,” Evans noted. “OK, we made a mistake with the tyres on the final day, but Ott was able to pip us to second. I think we’ll be fine.”
The Rally Sweden winner Evans was guarded in his response to a more general question of his chances aboard a gravel-spec Yaris WRC.
“It’s still early days,” he said. “You come away from these tests with a good feeling – or sometimes a not-so good feeling – but those things don’t necessarily carry forward into the event. Let’s see how the rally goes and we’ll have a clearer idea of things from there.”