It was all quite simple, according to Elfyn Evans. To us, less so. But here’s how the Welshman transformed the pace of his Toyota Yaris WRC across the spread of last week’s Rally Croatia.
By Saturday night, the only conversation at the DirtFish dinner table was about whether Evans was sandbagging. He’d set fastest times and looked racey for the last two days, but still the best we could get out of the driver sitting just 6.9s behind Sébastien Ogier was that the car was “there or thereabouts”.
Sunday morning he was fastest, fastest again and into the lead. That he didn’t win was down to a superhuman effort from Ogier and a small mistake in the final corner.
After the event, Evans set aside the heartache of losing by six tenths of a second to explain to DirtFish what he’d been up to with car set-up for the previous three days.
“Obviously this was a new rally, our first event with the car on a full Tarmac event and we were on new tires,” said Evans. “There was a fair amount going on.
“I wasn’t fully happy on Friday. It was just niggling a little bit. I didn’t have full confidence.
“There were a few things going on with the set-up that we were trying, especially on Saturday morning, and then we sort of did a bit of a U-turn for the first thing on Saturday afternoon and tried to compensate basically for something that we were missing.”
What did that actually mean?
A very patient Evans offered more detail.
“Basically, we expected it to be cleaner on Saturday so we went with a set-up favoring a cleaner day, but the pollution was quite a bit more than I expected,” he said.
“For the afternoon loop, we knew it would be even more dirty, so we had to go back to where we were on Friday.
“Let’s say there were certain elements of the [Saturday morning] cleaner set-up that gave me more front-end [grip] that I didn’t have on Friday, so I had to find that from somewhere. I got it, but combined it with a certain setting that was maybe not perfect. As soon as we dialled that out, it was working.
“Quite simple, really.”
Maybe it’s better if DirtFish just joins Evans and Toyota technical director Tom Fowler in their post-event debrief next time…
“I am a bit sensitive to the car,” added Evans. “That’s always been a little bit the case. But when it’s so tight like this, the important thing when the grip is so changeable like this is you have to have feeling, you have to have confidence in what the car will do, and I was missing that a little bit.
“But, of course, with a new rally like this, I’m sure everybody went through bits of this throughout the weekend and that’s why it’s been so close. We’ve all been fine-tuning as we’re going along, trying to find those little improvements, and we all got there in the end and obviously the results are very tight.”