The reasons behind Evans’ Monte shocker

Saturday afternoon struggles put pay to Evans' chance of winning. His team boss thinks he knows what happened


It had all started so well. Two stage wins on Thursday evenings, a 15.1s cushion built and Monte maestro Sébastien Ogier even further behind.

Elfyn Evans looked set to start the 2024 season with a bang.

Instead, his charge fizzled out, fading into third place as Ogier provided the spark in his battle with Thierry Neuville.

It had all gone wrong on Saturday. Yes, a hybrid deployment issue on stage 10 hadn’t helped – but it wasn’t the main reason for his slide down the leaderboard.


Evans' rally went in the wrong direction on Saturday afternoon

Evans recapped Saturday in one word: “S***”.

“I don’t know whether I was just driving badly or what,” he told DirtFish. “But I didn’t enjoy the same level of confidence in the car yesterday afternoon in the conditions we had compared to the rest of the weekend.”

But his team principal thinks he understands what went wrong. We know Evans is a confidence driver: his purple patch at the back end of last year correlated with feeling at one with the GR Yaris Rally1 after a year and a half of looking for answers.

It was almost as if he’d regressed to those earlier struggles to find harmony with the machine underneath him, especially in the afternoon where he’d shipped most of the time to Ogier and Neuville.

And it was, literally, what was underneath him that was the problem: the road and its condition.

“I think what happened with him was that he was first car on the road, his car was working really well for the clean road,” explained Latvala.

“Then he came to the dirty roads with the cuts and he couldn’t get the car working for that so well. Then he felt he didn’t want to take the risks so he backed off. And that was the decision he wanted to do.


Jari-Matti Latvala is content with his lead drivers' performance

“I know he wanted to have important points for the championship because if you think about two years ago, when he went off on Sisteron, it was a difficult season for him. So he knows he wants to have a podium result, get the points and then it’s easier to go to Sweden.”

In a sitdown with DirtFish before the season began, Evans had highlighted that 2022 season start as a lesson. He’d decided after two years of being pipped by Ogier that it was time to go a bit more win-or-bust, an approach that he’d later decide simply hadn’t worked. Consistency was the better approach.

On paper consistency is also more important this year than in the past. Evans scored 21 points on this year’s Monte: 13 for the first three days, six for being the second-fastest driver, plus two powerstage points. By comparison, he’d have scored only 17 under the old system.

His pace drop-off may have bordered on alarming – but Latvala isn’t worried. He even backed his driver’s choice to be careful and prioritise finishing over pushing.

“For me he needs to think about the championship. He doesn’t necessarily have the same support as what the Hyundai drivers could have over the year from their two drivers because we are not doing team orders, so our drivers need to have a fair fight when Hyundai might have that. So he knows the situation. It’s better to guarantee the points and build up the confidence.”