Elfyn Evans says he has learned lessons from last season and is ready to put those teachings to use from round one in Monte Carlo next week.
After finishing second in the championship in both the 2020 and 2021, Evans struggled to match his world champion team-mate Kalle Rovanperä’s pace aboard the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 in 2022.
Evans failed to win a WRC round, while the Finn romped away to clinch the title with two rounds remaining.
“We have learned lessons,” Evans told DirtFish. “We had to. If you don’t have a season like Kalle’s there has to be a lesson otherwise you can’t compete in the next season.
“There was a lot of stuff for me, a lot of the things that went wrong were relatively small errors with big consequences. With everything coming up that bit faster in these cars, we’ve looked at everything: the notes, areas in the car and areas with my driving.”
Evans struggled to find the same feel and confidence as he’d enjoyed with the previous generation of Yaris. But working closely with the team, the hope is that the tide has turned for him.
Toyota technical director Tom Fowler explained the changes to the Yaris ahead of this season.
“We’re pretty confident we’ve made some steps forward with him in terms of the general car,” Fowler told DirtFish. “This means things all the drivers are going to use. As well as that for Elfyn, there are some more tuning devices available to him.
“There needed to be a little bit from many places in the car to help Elfyn. We simply couldn’t say: “OK, he’s going to have his own exact diff package that’s going to be homologated totally different to everyone else’s.”
“That’s not possible, You can’t say he’s going to have completely his own suspension because it’s homologated within a range – like all of these things. It comes down to making a little bit with the front differential, a little bit with the rear differential, a little bit on the suspension and on the dampers.
“It’s like making a menu of small pieces everywhere and joining them all together to try to all go in the direction that you want to make a big enough step.”
Talking more specifically about where Evans needed the most help, Fowler added: “In many ways, the higher the grip from a more racing-car type stage is where he was finding it a bit more difficult to adapt.
“We’ve worked on almost everything, because one of the most important things that we needed to try and understand was how to get a big enough change to help Elfyn from a car which – by regulation – you aren’t allowed to change very much.”
Evans admits he feels in a very different position to nosing the Yaris into Casino Square 12 months ago.
Evans said: “There’s been a steady evolution with the car since this time last year.
“We have a lot more experience with the car, everything has come on a lot in 12 months. The guys have been working on improvements the whole time. Now we know far better what we have beneath us.
“Despite a tight turnaround from Spain to Japan and we saw quite a different outcome. OK, it wasn’t the result we were after, but it was a moving in the right direction. There’s been more since then.
“This time last year, I think everybody was quite apprehensive with the new hybrid cars. I didn’t have the best preparation and I’d struggled to feel 100% comfortable with the car. Going into the rally, I had low expectations, but it turned out better than we expected.
“OK, you could say we’d moved into the lead, but that doesn’t really count when you’re hanging on the side of a cliff. It was like the season [in miniature] in that it was going well, then something happened.”
But what about a Monte prediction from Evans?
“Monte is not the rally you come to looking for every last tenth,” he said. “The rally can be so changeable. It’s about finding a car you’re comfortable with for this event and being able to cope with whatever the rally throws at you.
“We’ll be fairly focused on a good performance. Like everything, when the outcome comes at the end of the event, you’re never happy unless you win – that’s always the case. It’s not the be-all-and-end-all to win Monte, but of course I don’t think you’re fully satisfied unless you’re on the top step – that’s in your nature.
“We’ll focus on having a good weekend and see what comes out.”