October last year and Elfyn Evans is discussing opportunities with his current employer, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team. The plan was clear, the Welshman was up for an all-out title tilt in 2020.
As Evans prepares for this week’s Monza Rally – the biggest rally of his career to date – his former team principal Rich Millener said the Welshman’s step up for this season had been on the cards if he’d remained aboard a Ford Fiesta WRC.
“We could all see the change coming in Elfyn,” Millener told DirtFish.
“Before the opportunity [with Toyota] came late last year, we’d already got together and talked about what was coming for this season.
“He was coming with a different attitude. He’d told Malcolm [Wilson, M-Sport managing director] and I that if we were going to be pushing to win more often and to be running at a higher pace more consistently then there was going to be a higher risk with the car. The change had started. We’d seen him getting more and more competitive, this was coming.
“There was a different goal for us in 2020, that was what we were looking for with him. Maybe it was going to be Elfyn’s last shot, I don’t know, but it was clear that things were going to be different.”
Evans went to look around Toyota’s team HQ in Puuppola in early November and signed in the weeks following.
“Malcolm would never have stood in his way,” said Millener.
“MW was the first to say that Elfyn couldn’t turn that [Toyota offer] down and it was clear that we couldn’t match what Toyota was offering Elfyn – but I think the very process of chasing him and making him the offer helped to feed his self-confidence. If you know that a team like Toyota wants you, it does make you believe more in yourself.”
Evans starts the final round of this year’s World Rally Championship 14 points ahead of team-mate Sébastien Ogier and as the only driver who has won more than one event this season.