Elfyn Evans’ Monte Carlo Rally performance was the thrilling surprise of the 2020 World Rally Championship opener, and has totally changed expectations of the Toyota driver’s season.
Widely seen as excellent back-up to fellow team newcomer Sébastien Ogier’s title bid before the year began, Evans proved he can be a championship threat in his own right by leading much of the rally and only losing second to his seven-time Monte-winning team-mate on the final stage.
Though muted after the finish having ended up third on a rally he had led for so long, Evans showed a steely determination to ensure that Monte would set the tone for his year rather than being a one-off.
“Ultimately now we know we have to aim for wins,” he declared.
“There’s no point pre-planning, is there? You just have to keep your head down and go to every rally and do your best. That’s simple.
“There’s no point trying to come up with some masterplan. You just go to the stages, try and win them and let the rest take care of itself.”
"Unfortunately then you try to turn the wick up a little bit but it makes it almost worse. Something to learn"Elfyn Evans
Asked if he now felt he could be a contender for victory on every round, he stopped short of making any bold declarations but firmly implied he expected that would be the case.
“I think we already showed last year that we have pace on all surfaces,” Evans replied.
“Now the car seems very good so far; OK we’ve done very little on gravel and that is the critical part of the World Rally Championship calendar so we have to wait to find out if we have the same confidence.
“Let’s say based on previous results it doesn’t look so bad.”
Evans had led into the final day of the Monte but ended up 12 seconds behind winner Thierry Neuville in third.
He admitted “things just weren’t clicking quite the same” on the Sunday, which he put down to a variety of small factors.
“We made some minor, minor tweaks to the car and maybe that didn’t help so much and then I think actually I wasn’t just quite as fluid in my driving,” Evans explained.
“A little bit pushing on in a few places, not quite nailing my lines and sometimes that’s all it takes to drop two or three seconds and it’s enough to make the difference.
“It wasn’t just happening like it was on the previous days and I guess that’ll come with a bit more experience in the car.
“I guess I just missed a little bit of the feeling and the feedback from the front end.
“But you could never really test much for this and obviously until you have the experience in the car it’s very difficult to know exactly where to go. It’s a very different day to the rest of the rally.
“It’s more of a racing circuit but with difficult conditions rather than a country stage with difficult conditions. It’s a bit like going from Germany to Spain or Alsace to Spain.
“It’s still a Tarmac rally but it’s very, very different and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the rhythm and the driving that I did.
“I knew coming to the end of the stages that they weren’t fantastic but I knew that it wasn’t bad either.
“But unfortunately then you try to turn the wick up a little bit but it makes it almost worse. Something to learn.
“And I knew that on the powerstage Seb was going to beat me – I could just tell from the run that I’d had, it wasn’t going to be good enough.”