Rallying is a team sport, and not in the same way other series like Formula 1 are with a driver competing for a team.
In the World Rally Championship, there’s a team within the car. The driver and the co-driver must complement each other perfectly to have any hope of coming out on top.
Sometimes, one side of the equation can let the team down. More often than not, that’s the driver – be it them making the wrong tire choice, not finding the right rhythm or simply putting the car off the road.
It’s far rarer for a co-driver to slip up, but when it does happen it’s far more awkward. The co-driver is the unsung member of the crew – it’s effectively just expected that they’ll do their bit. Their job is taken for granted.
So whenever a mistake does occur, absolutely nobody wants to dig into them. Certainly not Elfyn Evans, who was faced with this very predicament on last weekend’s Ypres Rally Belgium.
Evans and Scott Martin have been paired together since the beginning of 2019 and in that time have won four world rallies and challenged for two world titles. Martin had not put a foot wrong before Belgium.
Checking Evans into SS8 one minute late, the pair earned a 10-second time penalty that put them at a major disadvantage in the fight for the win. Rather cruelly, they would only lose the rally by five seconds.
It would therefore be easy to suggest that Martin cost Evans a win in Ypres. But that’s not a viewpoint Evans subscribes to.
Instead, he stood by his co-driver. He was tight-lipped and cagey with information when asked why he was late to the start of SS8, protecting Martin as much as he could.
“It’s just an unfortunate mistake,” he said.
Evans is a rally man through and through. After all, his father, Gwyndaf, is a former works driver and British champion. He understands that it’s a team game and that pointing the finger would get him nowhere.
But Evans’ reluctance to say a bad word about his right-hand man was about far more than just being noble. He believed it would have been rather two-faced of him to throw any accusations given the events of December 2020.
“I am not here to point the finger,” Evans said when asked to clarify the time penalty in the Ypres post-event press conference.
“If you want to do that, he could say [to me] that ‘you lost my world championship when you went off the road at Monza’.
“So at the end of the day, we win together, we finish second together.
“That is it. There is nothing more to discuss.”
Fair play to you Elfyn. And after all, as he told DirtFish earlier in the weekend: “It’s one [mistake] in four years, so that can be forgiven.”
Evans has certainly made more than one error since the beginning of 2019.