Where Evans lost the Safari Rally

A handful of key moments made the difference during the Rovanperä–Evans battle in Kenya

WRC_2022_Rd.6_316 (1)

Elfyn Evans’ hunt for a win this World Rally Championship season goes on.

Safari Rally Kenya matched his best result of the year so far (second in Portugal) but the Toyota driver just didn’t quite have enough to sustain a rally-long challenge to his Safari-winning team-mate and runaway championship leader Kalle Rovanperä.

Evans was in the battle throughout, briefly leading the rally after SS4 and only sitting outside the top three for two of the event’s 19 stages.

Yet ultimately he was beaten to the punch. Why?

“I think Kalle probably had what we didn’t expect was an advantage on Kedong first time through on Friday,” Evans told DirtFish, “and I think obviously gave away some time there.”


That was actually the stage where Evans took the lead of the rally, but Rovanperä – running first on the road on what was a particularly demanding stage – won the test by 4.1s to vault up from eighth to third and muscle himself into play.

“We then had a couple of punctures on the first stage of the afternoon loop on Friday,” Evans continued, “Sleeping Warrior [on Saturday] we had a puncture as well and of course we had some issues with wipers in the mud.

“So a couple of little things [cost us], nothing major, but obviously it was enough to eke out Kalle’s advantage and then it was difficult to fight back.”

Before the final two stages of Saturday afternoon, Evans had trailed Rovanperä by just 19.4s. On an event as punishing as the Safari, that may as well have been nothing.

But the issues Evans described allowed the gap to balloon. He actually did incredibly well on the second pass of Sleeping Warrior to only lose 13.2s bearing in mind he could barely see where he was going with malfunctioning wipers in the rain.


And Rovanperä was simply too good on the stage beforehand, putting 11.3s on Evans – who was third quickest, 0.1s down on Thierry Neuville – to ramp his lead up to 27.1s. The Finn took to the sudden downpour so well you’d think he actually had fins.

“It seemed to be going quite OK,” reflected Evans.

“It was just at that time that we were bringing it back down to just under 20 seconds I believe and obviously things started to go from there.

“Once 20 grows to 30 or 40 when we had the issues, then it’s almost impossible then [to catch that back] on driving alone.

“And of course from a team perspective, it was important then to secure this result.”

Beginning the final leg with a 40.3s deficit, Evans wasn’t explicitly told he couldn’t race Rovanperä, but with an instruction to bring his car to the finish and secure a 1-2-3-4 finish for Toyota, he wasn’t going to be able to claw that back.


“We had one eye on the lead but also we didn’t want to deviate away from our thoughts that you really had to look after the car when needed,” Evans explained.

“I felt like we sort of got that balance pretty OK. Ultimately when you know there was already a 20-second gap or so, then there were other things going on, that’s probably when I accepted that once Kalle had a great time on the first one where it rains then it was difficult to really develop after that.”

Gracious in defeat, but that first win must surely be coming soon.

“Yeah,” Evans agreed.

“We have to try and get a win somewhere this year, so hopefully sooner rather than later.”

If not for his championship bid – which is hanging by a thread with an 88-point deficit to Rovanperä, which is 31 more points than Evans currently has – then for his pride, Evans needs to hit that top step once again.

Words:Luke Barry