Teamwork sits at the heart of any world championship-challenging performance. In rallying, it’s as much about the team within the team and so far this season Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin have been the team to beat.
Toyota technical director Tom Fowler has seen the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of teams within teams in his time in the sport. He’s seen enough to know this is a good one.
The second run through Çetibeli on Sunday morning in Turkey confirmed that. The 24-miler was where Evans laid the foundations for his move back to the top of the table.
But it didn’t come without some degree of stress.
Just a handful of corners in and Evans reported his suspicion of a puncture to Martin.
The following minutes showed the strength of this team.
“If you listen to the onboards after Elfyn mentions the puncture,” Fowler told DirtFish.
“You can hear Scott encouraging him and talking to him about the possible puncture. That was great. The two of them deserved to come to the head of the rally because of the way they dealt with that stage both times through.
“With respect to Séb [Ogier], he had other troubles. We don’t know what would have happened with him, but against the other drivers, Elfyn and Scott deserved that.”
Martin’s input into the car at that pivotal time in the rally – and the season – demonstrates a co-driver with super experience (136 WRC starts) and confidence in himself and his own ability. It also highlighted Martin’s understanding and positioning in the car.
Put bluntly, it takes balls for a co-driver to pipe up and tell a driver he thinks he’s wrong and there’s nothing to worry about.
Martin shares the moment with DirtFish.
“When Elfyn said that, my heart did sink a bit,” he said. “I’ve got to be honest, I hadn’t felt anything. I didn’t feel us run wide or hit anything, there was no impact as far as I could feel. But it’s really important not to make a call too early.
“And, of course, I wasn’t feeling what Elfyn was feeling as a driver. I didn’t know if he’d seen a rock or something.
“I kept reading the notes, I wanted to feel the car through a couple of corners in both directions to see if there was anything.
“I had a bit of a sixth sense on this one, the surface wasn’t as bad as it had been first time through and we seemed to be following the line nicely. It was weird, the stage had sort of polished in places and I could feel there was a bit more steering input.”
Starting a stage with a 42-second lead, with a rally win and the championship lead just two stages down the road can also do things to a driver.
“When you’re in that position, you definitely hear more noises from the car,” said Martin. “Elfyn’s senses would definitely have been enhanced – especially after we’d seen so much drama in there on the first run. But I was also worried that I didn’t want this thing to be in his mind for too long.
“We’d still got around 26 minutes of driving left in the stage and I knew we couldn’t afford to back off too much. I could feel he wasn’t leaning on the car quite as much in the corners – that’s understandable, if there was a puncture, the last thing you want to do is knock it off the bead. But I was mindful that I didn’t want this to go on too long.
“When I was, I’d say 97% sure we were all good, I told him I thought we were OK and didn’t have a puncture.
“After that, I definitely felt him get on with it a bit more.”
Cracking on was the right decision. The pair ended the stage second quickest, but with 36s and the lead in their grasp.