There’s no denying it. We’ve all said it, and if we haven’t we’ve been thinking it: Elfyn Evans missed a golden opportunity in this year’s World Rally Championship season.
Having fought to the bitter end and then lost out to Sébastien Ogier in the previous two years, 2022 looked set to be Evans’ time before the year got under way.
And yes, Kalle Rovanperä did upset the applecart, and would have likely still emerged as the stronger of the two drivers had Evans performed at the level we know he can deliver consistently, but that’s the issue: Evans didn’t perform at that level consistently all season.
There were several rallies in which the Toyota driver fell short of even his own expectations. And despite working hard to feel at one with the car, the improvements didn’t seem to hit the highs many would expect.
Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala doesn’t think Evans has been held back by a lack of speed this year though.
“Elfyn, technically he knows really really well, everything about the car,” Latvala told DirtFish. “He’s very analytic.
“Before [Rally Japan] we talked to him, and yes, he’s not been able to have the [same] confidence with this car this year as the last year’s car because there’s been less options to do the setup for the car because there’s more limitations.
“But I think here he proved he has the speed.
“So I’m not, I am confident he will be, he will have the speed.”
So what is holding Evans back? Latvala thinks it’s Evans himself.
“It’s just he needs to keep the shoulders relaxed. I think that is the more important part,” he said.
“You can get too much thinking. That’s the point I think. And he has everything to be successful next year.”
Evans is leaving no stone unturned though. He’s working hard with his Toyota engineers through the winter to make sure he’s fully at home with his GR Yaris Rally1 for the start of next season.
And as Toyota’s technical director Tom Fowler pointed out, Toyota is also feeling pressure to make sure Evans finds a breakthrough with the car, especially after all the success he’s brought to the team in recent years.
“This is really important for us, not just from a team point of view but from a personal perspective,” Fowler told DirtFish.
“The success that Elfyn brought us when he joined the team in 2020 and ’21 seasons when he competed in our 2017 car, he was incredible.
“Pushing Séb Ogier to the end of season twice, scoring a huge number of points, rally wins, gave us championships in the manufacturers’ through that as well, and we want that Elfyn back.
“And we fully accept that part of that is not just him but the car not suiting him, let’s say.
“It’s all very well saying it’s a fast car but that doesn’t matter if it’s not suitable for him.”