Toyota’s Elfyn Evans has promised to not let team-mate and rally leader Sébastien Ogier run away at the head of the Monte Carlo Rally, but won’t “go crazy” in his own pursuit of the win.
After five of the rally’s 14 stages, Evans lies 11.3 seconds behind Ogier despite starting Friday’s loop of three tests 8.4s ahead.
The 2020 World Rally Championship runner-up has been within the top-three times on all three Friday morning stages but Ogier has won each of them, defeating Evans by nine and then eight seconds on the last two timed runs respectively.
Evans said “it’s not been an easy morning” as he struggled for confidence when the “grip was really low”.
“I really struggled for confidence and just to be able to feel the grip in those areas, especially with the black top shiny tar,” he said.
“It’s been OK but felt I’ve had to be a bit on the careful side and not maybe fully confident in some areas.”
SS5 presented a different challenge, with loose gravel sections littering the racing line. Ogier appeared to benefit from this as the first car on the road, but Evans wasn’t entirely convinced that was the reason his team-mate set such a strong time.
“I thought it was maybe the same for Seb in front, I’m not sure if it was him dragging it out or if the road was just like that,” Evans said.
“It’s hard to know how these things evolve because you don’t see it for the guys before or after.
“But especially coming down there, I think it’s a stage Seb has done many times as part of his testing and I’ve not been down it that way before, or maybe I have but back in 2014 or something so there’s a lot of shiny tar and I guess if you know where that is it helps.”
Evans was however quick to praise Ogier’s performance: “I think he’s had a very strong morning, it’s no secret. But I still have to do my own rally, I have to do what feels comfortable.
“So yeah of course we’re going to try and improve but it’s not going to be at all costs and go crazy or anything like that but of course we’re going to try our best to try and not let him run away.”
Ogier, who struggled with a brake pedal issue on Thursday, admitted he “was having a bit more of a push” on Friday morning.
“I needed to react,” he said. “We had a little issue yesterday.
“Of course I was confident that the team would fix the brake issue we had yesterday and for sure it helped me to find the confidence.
“First stage of the loop was tricky anyway, a lot of icy sections, much different conditions compared to the recce so it was very hard to read and also we had to trust for sure a lot of the information from the gravel crew.
“But it’s been an OK stage and then it was even better on the next ones. I think for sure some sections I had a bit of an advantage to run first on the road probably but I’m happy with the car.
“The feeling came so it was much more enjoyable to drive.”