One section of Rally Estonia’s Arula stage will hold Elfyn Evans’ focus longer than most when the Welshman returns to a corner that ruled him out of action for 10 weeks.
A heavy landing aboard his Ford Fiesta WRC last year forced Evans to miss the World Rally Championship’s trips to Finland and Germany while he waited for the all-clear from a back injury. Next month the WRC returns to the same corner which caught the Welshman out.
Now driving for Toyota, Evans has told DirtFish how he will avoid a repeat of the painful and frightening moment when he was unable to speak and going down the stage with the throttle jammed wide open.
“There’s a lot of talk about the man-made jumps in Estonia but, ironically, it was one of the natural jumps that caught me out. I’ve since learned it’s a pretty notorious place that’s caused a lot of crashes,” Evans said.
“It’s a tricky line to get jump right. It’s like an S-bend approach, with a right-hander before the jump and a left-hander after it. If you keep to the right in the first bit, it feels like you’ll land in the trees and if you keep left it feels like you’re flying to the ditch.
“Basically I’ll adjust the note to keep us just a little bit further to the right [before the jump].
“I landed with one wheel just in the ditch, but the problem was the car landed directly onto the sumpguard, there was nothing for the wheel and suspension to compress onto. I hit it precisely in the sweet spot in a bad way, if you like.
“I was winded straight away, but the worst thing was that I broke the side of the throttle pedal. I came off the pedal but it wouldn’t return, it was wedged under the foot plate we have on the floor. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on.
“The scariest thing was that I couldn’t catch my breath, so we were going down the road with the engine on the limiter and I couldn’t explain to Scott [Martin, co-driver] what was going on!”
Evans suffered a high-speed crash on the WRC’s warm-up event on the South Estonia Rally last month, almost 12 months following his crash on the test event in 2019.
The Welshman had conducted a pre-event test prior to South Estonia, with the Rally Sweden winner stating he was happy with the balance in the Yaris WRC.
“The car felt good,” he said.
“Obviously we’ve done a couple of tests since the end of lockdown and that’s helped us get back into it. The test was a pretty typical pre-event, it was about getting the car tuned to what we want in the conditions. We found a fairly soft road which cut up a bit, so we got to see a good range [of conditions].
“Estonia will be our first fast gravel rally [in the WRC] with the car, so there was a bit of time to understand the parameters of what the car will do. It was good.”
Despite his back problem last year, Evans battled on to finish fourth behind Ott Tänak’s Toyota, Andreas Mikkelsen’s Hyundai and Esapekka Lappi, then in a Citroën.