Freshly appointed Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala believes Elfyn Evans can once again push his team-mate Sébastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship this year.
A crash on the 2020 season-ending Monza Rally cost Evans his likely maiden WRC crown and allowed Ogier to scoop his seventh drivers’ championship. The Frenchman secured the first four of those titles driving alongside his new boss Latvala when the duo was competing for the all-conquering Volkswagen outfit.
Latvala was impressed with Evans’ development across 2020 as the Welshman went from a one-time WRC rally winner to leading the championship for the majority of the season.
“[On Sunday] evening I was talking with Gwyndaf [Evans’ father and British Rally Champion] a little bit,” Latvala told DirtFish. “I said it was a huge step, what he did last year.
“He’s feeling very comfortable with the team, he’s very comfortable with the car and you can see that he has everything now – I can see him fighting for the championship like he did last year.
“Of course, it’s a disappointing end to the last year, mainly for himself, because if I look from the team side, he did an extremely great year.”
Eighteen-time WRC event winner Latvala echoed TGR technical director Tom Fowler when he urged Evans to forget the pain of losing the drivers’ championship and maintain into his 2021 campaign the consistency he showed throughout last year.
He also advised Evans to remember a valuable lesson Latvala learnt on numerous occasions while serving as Ogier’s team-mate and title rival: he always bounces back.
“I hope and I wish that he basically forgets everything that happened at the end of last year and think that this is a new start, everybody’s on zero points, it’s a new year and he maintains the same level where he has been,” Latvala added.
“He can do it. There is no question. But we have to remember Seb is very strong and if the other driver makes a mistake, he will always bounce back. [For] Elfyn, you need to remember that if it doesn’t feel it in the events, he can’t get the best out of it, he just needs to get the points and keep it consistent.”