Where Evans feels he lost the 2023 title

Elfyn Evans' 2023 was a big improvement over 2022, but he was still beaten by Kalle Rovanperä to the championship


Without doubt, Elfyn Evans’ 2023 World Rally Championship campaign was a massive improvement over 2022.

At worst, the Welshman will finish third in this year’s championship – one spot up on last term – and he already has 57 more points in 2023 with a round still left to score on.

But improvements aren’t what Evans is really about. Of course they matter, but becoming World Rally champion matters more.

In all but one of his four seasons as a Toyota driver, Evans has been a serious title contender. But in none of them has he managed to take the ultimate prize.

Contextualize this with the unfortunate trip into a barn on the Central European Rally, and it’s not hard to understand why Evans’ initial feeling after the rally was “a bit not great, obviously”.


But ever the sportsman, he immediately added: “I want to say a huge congratulations to Kalle first of all, because I think they deserve the title, they’ve done an incredible job and him, Jonne and the team deserve it. Well done guys.

“From our side, of course it’s disappointing. We’re here to try to win, but anyway we knew it was a long shot, from quite early in the season.

“We tried to fight our way back the best we could, and this weekend was sort of the same attitude, let’s say.

“We have to do what we can, it didn’t work out unfortunately. But there we go. We have to move on.”

And move on Evans will. But in the immediate aftermath of a title defeat, it’s inevitable that there will be some reflection over where the championship was lost.

Was it even lost? Evans did lead the race after Croatia, but the battle was so tight that the world’s best were swapping places at the top of the championship for fun. And Rovanperä is that good that losing out to him doesn’t necessarily mean something was thrown away.

The obvious turning point however would appear to be Portugal, where Rovanperä vaulted to the top of the pile with his first victory of the year and a perfect 30-pointer while none of his rivals finished higher than fourth.

Evans was the biggest loser, crashing out violently and slipping 29 points adrift of his team-mate. The trajectory of the rest of the season, where the points swing between the pair was rarely larger or smaller than that, suggests how damaging Portugal was for Evans’ campaign.

“I think Portugal was quite damaging,” he agreed. “A big crash there, it was quite like a regrettable one in a way.

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“You can be brave or you can be stupid brave, and that was a bit over the top brave. Obviously I paid quite a big price for that, and it sort of affected a bit heading into Sardinia. then Kenya even a little bit also.

“I was a bit like too conservative against the guys who had already started to build some momentum.

“But then let’s say Finland [where Evans won and Rovanperä crashed] obviously was the turning point that it all got a lot better again.

“So yeah, like any season, everybody has their ups and downs.”

The important question Evans answered in 2023 though was whether he can get on with the new Rally1 generation of rally car. There were signs towards the end of last year that he was getting there, but a first victory in the car (Croatia) and then another title challenge was an important step.

Evans’ goal is to keep working on his imperfections and become even stronger for 2024.

“Ultimately what matters is if you win or not,” he said.

“And of course there’s areas where we know that we can still improve, I think there’s definite rallies that things didn’t work out for us this year still, and of course the attention will be on those looking forward to next season.”