Toyota’s Elfyn Evans believes he and his engineers ‘panicked’ and made changes for Rally Italy that “weren’t fully necessary” due to concerns about his Rally Portugal pace.
Evans won in Portugal, but he was not satisfied with the feeling aboard his Yaris throughout the weekend and therefore went chasing improvements on his pre-event test in Spain before Sardinia.
Explaining the changes he had made, Evans told DirtFish: “We tried some stuff, tried some areas that we were struggling with in Portugal which to be fair, it did [improve] to a point but it hampered other areas more than what we expected.
Maybe we should've just accepted we didn't have the chance to change the car this timeElfyn Evans
“We were trying to fight for a bit more support after Portugal. I felt the car was a bit soft and it didn’t really give you any feeling, so we got the support but didn’t get the connection with the road.
“While that often doesn’t cost you so much performance, it really affects your feeling behind the wheel. You just can’t feel the grip basically. That’s the sensation I felt [on Friday] morning.
“You always try to do something because we felt we had a bit of a deficit we needed to find, so on one hand it was worth the gamble but looking back now, hindsight’s a wonderful thing, it probably wasn’t,” he added.
“The idea was great, and normally when you’ve done your set-up for Portugal you don’t normally need to change so much for Sardinia but we didn’t envisage to struggle, especially on Friday morning.
“And that’s when the focus then changed around the test a little bit to be honest. But maybe we should’ve just accepted we didn’t have the chance to change the car this time and focused mainly on Safari. But like I say you always want it there and then.”
The ill-fated changes restricted Evans to an early seventh overall – with team-mate Sébastien Ogier up in third despite sweeping the road clear – though he was up to fourth at the end of the day when Thierry Neuville picked up a puncture.
Evans’ pace did improve over the weekend as things “got better and better” to the point where the “feeling was pretty good.” He claimed four stage wins across Saturday and Sunday, and eventually finished second due to attrition after successfully holding off Neuville.
He added: “We were a bit worried at some points in Portugal to be honest [about whether] we had enough pace, and it probably made us panic a little bit too much and forced us into making changes that maybe weren’t fully necessary.
“But of course everybody’s here to win, to always keep improving so naturally when you feel like you have places to improve you feel like you always have to search for something.
“But as it turns out maybe the answer was closer to home than what we expected, and in the end it didn’t need that much to give us what we were missing in Portugal.”
Quizzed about what he meant by things “closer to home”, Evans said: “Basically just some chassis stuff, some stuff in the geometry, some chassis settings.
“It’s not stuff that normally costs a lot of performance but has a lot of impact on the feeling you have behind the wheel.”
Evans said there was “a slight sense of disappointment” not to score any powerstage points – his Toyota spluttered for a few seconds after a water splash – but he is 11 points behind Ogier in the championship, and 18 clear of Neuville, with seven rounds remaining.