Elfyn Evans doesn’t believe his 10-second penalty on last weekend’s Rally Sweden was “fully correct” while rival Thierry Neuville doesn’t think it was severe enough.
On the final stage of Saturday, Evans’ Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 flew through the last corner and then through a snowbank at the exit before the flying finish.
His car stopped on the other side by the stage-end lighting rig, and he triggered the timing beam off the designated route to set the second fastest time. He then drove outside the perimeter of the stage to the stop control.
Not returning to the defined route to get to that point did not sit well with the event stewards. It was deemed to be in breach of Article 19.2 of the WRC’s sporting regulations as Evans and co-driver Scott Martin deviated from the designated rally route as per the event’s roadbook.
Asked about the penalty in Sunday morning service, Neuville – who was at that point just three seconds behind Evans’ second place – said: “First of all I’m surprised he got only 10 seconds penalty because he definitely had a lot of breach of the regulations.
“He didn’t pass the finish-line, he didn’t pass between the beacons either so I was a bit surprised, I was expecting more but it is like it is.”
When it was put to Evans that Neuville thinks he should have got a bigger penalty, Evans said: “Well he would do, wouldn’t he?”
Evans then later retired from the rally for good with a crash into a snowbank and subsequent hybrid problem, but speaking to DirtFish after the event Evans admitted he was a bit surprised by his time penalty as he felt he acted in the safest way possible.
“I think there’s two elements. The first one was obviously an indication we gained time. But we didn’t gain any time because quite clearly you see we lost around a second-and-a-half compared to Kalle [Rovanperä] from this last jump just before this corner,” he said.
We were still on the same road albeit separated by this artificial snowbankElfyn Evans
“That was quite clear. Of course we ended up where we were. There was snow going everywhere and you’re just trying to get yourself out of the snowbank. But it pulled us over the top, but at that time we knew we had crossed the finish line at that point. So we had a few options.
“One was to go back the way we came, or to try, but then you’re re-entering a live stage so of course this is not a possibility. The other one is to shoot over the bank further down, but then the distance between the flying finish and the stop control is really short on this stage, in fact very, very short.
“And simply doing that I felt it would put everybody at the stop control in risk, and therefore we were still on the same road albeit separated by this artificial snowbank, and we pulled up at the stop control facing the same direction. So in our view, we did everything we could to act as safely as possible in the circumstances.”
After Evans provided his explanation, DirtFish pressed Evans on if he thought the penalty was harshly given following his own logic that he acted in the safest possible manner.
“I’ll let somebody else judge that, but I felt everything we did was correct for the situation,” he pondered, before adding: “I don’t really believe it [the penalty] was fully correct.”
Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala was also convinced it wasn’t the right call.
“I have to say it was a little bit incorrect for him to get the 10-second penalty yesterday because it was said that he got a time advantage but he actually lost,” he said in the post-event press conference.
“Yes he didn’t follow the road to the stop control, this is correct. If you look at the split times and evidence he actually lost time rather than gained. But, anyway, the stewards make the decision.”