Sardinia a good event for Evans to rebuild

Returning from Portugal crash, the Toyota driver holds fond memories of Rally Italy - as does his team boss


He’s had to wait a while, but this week Jari-Matti Latvala will be very happy to see Elfyn Evans taking his medicine.

Nobody knows Evans’ situation like the Finn. Nobody has arrived in Sardinia on the back of a bigger Portuguese shunt than the Finn.

In 2009, Latvala toppled a Ford Focus RS WRC 150 meters down a hill and out of the lead. The car rolled 17 times and the now Toyota team principal thought he and co-driver Miikka Anttila were going to die.

Latvala told DirtFish: “When we first went off the road, I said to myself: “Ach, Jari-Matti, you crashed the car again.

Rally de Portugal, Faro 2-5 04 2009

“But then after that it rolled and rolled again and it just kept on going. All the time, I was watching the rollcage coming down lower and lower towards Miikka and me. I thought this was going to carry on and we would be crushed.

“When it stopped, I remember thinking: ‘We are alive!’ It was a big, big crash.”

Evans’ Portuguese shunt was slightly different in nature, the Welshman’s Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 rolling into the trees.

This week, Evans will be back in the car for the first time since the crash.

“I think the best medicine is always to get as soon as possible into the car,” said Latvala. “It’s a bit more difficult now because we don’t have the same testing opportunities. When I crashed in 2009, I was back in the car in two days – this was helping.

“Elfyn is a big professional, this is not his first time with a big accident – he’s able to handle this quite well and get it out of the system.”

Latvala finished sixth in Argentina on the ensuing 2009 event, but when he came to Sardinia one round later, he won.

“Of course you feel it a little bit in the beginning of the rally when you start in Sardinia,” he said, “but it’s not necessarily a bad thing because Sardinia anyway is an event where things will happen and it’s quite a slippery surface.

“You can take it a bit easier in the beginning and then, in a good road position, you can push harder later when you get a bit of confidence.

“So I think that’s important, the first couple of stages, to build up the confidence.”

Rally Italia Sardegna, Olbia 20-22 06 2013

Evans starts fourth on the road in Olbia this week, but has fond memories of the Italian island. A decade ago this year, he made his debut at the sport’s highest level, stepping into Nasser Al-Attiyah’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC at the last minute after a business meeting forced the Qatari to miss the event.

Evans finished sixth, and recalls that decade-ago debut well.

“You don’t forget the first time you compete in one of those cars,” Evans told DirtFish. “It was special. It was a bit complicated with Giovanni [Bernacchini] alongside – we had to keep Nasser’s co-driver – but, yeah, Sardinia will always hold special memories.”

Evans would be delighted for that trend to continue this week.