Inside Evans’ damper scare and repair

A resourceful bodge job prevented a disastrous end to the Toyota driver's Saturday in Finland


It wasn’t what Elfyn Evans wanted to see. Rolling into the stop control of Patajoki for the second time on Saturday, the timing board showed that he’d lost another 5.2 seconds to his flying team-mate Kalle Rovanperä.

This was becoming a trend on Rally Finland. In fact, it has been all World Rally Championship season, but Evans knew the time loss was resigning him to a likely fourth place on a rally he had won 10 months ago.

But an eagle-eyed former co-driver turned stage-end interviewer Seb Marshall had spotted something rather more alarming.

Quickly the TV camera operator was ushered towards the rear-right corner of Evans’ Toyota, where something was clearly amiss.

Door open, the shot panned to Evans, who’d noticed the commotion behind him. Leaning out, he asked: “What’s wrong?”


“The wheel looks to be at a strange angle on the rear there Elfyn,” replied Marshall. “Any problems in that stage?”

Switched on as ever, Evans replayed the stage in his mind: “Yeah we felt a bit of an impact there towards the end, so we need to have a look,” he nodded, clunking the Yaris into first gear and pulling away.

It wasn’t the most dramatic stage-end calamity we’ve seen in WRC history, but it very nearly could’ve led to disaster had Evans and co-driver Scott Martin not acted quickly to solve it.

Out on the road section, the pair pulled over, knowing they had to do something to save their wonky wheel. If they couldn’t, falling out of the podium battle would be the last worry on their minds.

But rally drivers are cut from a different cloth, they are as resourceful as anybody else you’d meet. No task is too large, nothing is impossible.

Evans and Martin didn’t have a team of mechanics at their disposal to help them bodge a repair – gone are the days of remote servicing – and nor did they have the luxury of time on their side either. Take too long and they’d be late for SS18, which would incur costly road penalties and further jeopardize their rapidly deteriorating situation.

Instead, they could only use what they had. And what they had wasn’t what you’d expect your local garage to use to repair your road car.

Rally cars are designed for speed, and as brutal as the WRC’s stages can be, the less the crew can get away with carrying in the car the better – especially on a rally like Finland where it’s as quick as they come, and any accident is likely going to end in the trees and put the driver out on the spot.

Evans is one of the world’s best when it comes to fixing cars, and he quickly noticed it was the damper that was out of alignment. Heading to the trunk of his Yaris, he utilized the ratchet-strap that holds the spare wheel down and used it to tighten the offending part, with jubilee clips holding it in place.

“To be honest there was only so much we can do,” Evans explained in Saturday evening’s media zone, “just a few straps and jubilee clips as normal just trying to hold it together as best we can.”

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In typical Evans fashion he played the repair job down, but what was arguably more impressive was Evans’ job on that final stage of the day.

Checking in on time and strapping up the helmet, he had a decision to make. How fast would he dare push? He could go for broke and try and keep himself in the running, or back off, protect the bodged repair but risk being swallowed by Thierry Neuville behind him.

In the end he judged it perfectly, losing a shave under one minute but keeping himself over 45s ahead of the Hyundai.

“It’s very difficult to judge to be honest, you never know when’s too fast or when’s too slow,” Evans said of his run through SS18.

“I came to the end and thought we probably could have gone faster because it was still holding together, but at the same time if you’d have broken it trying to go fast then you’d have felt pretty stupid because you wouldn’t have been able to set a [competitive] time with it like that anyway.

“But I think we probably made the right call, we lost probably as little as we needed to. At least we’re here.”

And that’s precisely it, Evans made it. In a sense he lost nothing, as he remains in the same fourth place his raw pace had suggested he was consigned to anyway. Of course that’s a bit facetious, but it was a remarkable conservation job nonetheless.

How did the damage happen in the first place though?

“We just had a note to cut inside of a stone but unfortunately the inside wheel must have touched the stone, and that broke the damper,” Evans said.


“So yeah it came as a bit of a surprise to have such an impact. It was fine on the first pass but obviously it [the road] developed much worse.”

It’s naturally a “pretty frustrating” situation for Evans to find himself in, as instead of thinking about how to attack the leaders he’s fighting for scraps on Sunday.

“Yeah, position wise of course there’s nothing to fight for now so it’s a case of bringing home the result and then of course powerstage points if we can.”

But all things considered, making it back to Jyväskylä without any position loss has to be considered a win. It may pale into significance compared to the win Evans got here last year, but a win’s a win – and Evans has been short on those lately.