January 27, 2023

Evans doesn’t need to “reinvent the wheel” on WRC approach

The runner-up for the past two seasons heads into this weekend’s penultimate round of the year in Spain facing a victory drought of more than a year, with his last success arriving at Rally Finland in early October last year.

Evans has found himself unable to match teammate and newly crowned world champion Kalle Rovanpera this year in the new GR Yaris, and openly admits that his younger stablemate has adapted much faster to the new-for-2022 Rally1 hybrid cars.

While the Welshman suffered a difficult start to the season, second-place finishes arrived in Portugal, Kenya, Estonia and Belgium, but a victory has so far eluded him.

Reflecting on his year, Evans says he cannot pinpoint his results on misfortune and says he needs to adapt better to the Rally1 cars heading into next season, but ruled out wholesale changes to his driving style.

“I don’t think it is fair to pin everything on luck,” said Evans, who clocked the fifth fastest time in this morning’s weather-affected shakedown, 0.1s behind Rovanpera.

“There are things I could have done better and it is clear to see that Kalle adapted much faster to the new car.

“Later in the year I think the performances have been much better and stronger, but overall the season has been really quite a bad one for many different reasons.

“I don’t feel I will completely change my approach. My approach has been quite similar for the last four or five years and with mixed success let’s say. It is not the time to reinvent the wheel, but of course there are still areas to improve definitely.

“I have been in position where I have reacted in my career before and it normally doesn’t end so well, so you have to trust your feeling and get the car working and see what comes. Hopefully we can better next year.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“I think he [Kalle] was able to extract the performance from the car immediately. After Monte Carlo he really took off with the car and for me it was a much more difficult start and then things got really difficult for a few events after that, and then we started to build again.

“We all drive different and that is the bottom line.

“There are areas where he is better but we have been in this position before with Seb [Ogier] back at M-Sport.

“Ultimately if you try to copy someone else it is very hard to do. You have to learn from other people but you have to adapt your style towards that and at least for me it seems to be very difficult to do.”

Evans says securing a win in the final two events of the year in Spain and Japan is not a must, although ending the campaign strongly is his main objective.

“The win is not the be all and end all,” he added.

“I think we have had performances along the year which have been reasonably close, so I think to pin everything on not having a win is not the correct way, but of course we want to finish with strong performances, that is the key thing.”

Evans will however be focused on helping Toyota secure the manufacturers’ title for the second consecutive year, a feat that could come to fruition this weekend.

Toyota holds an 81-point lead over rivals Hyundai, meaning a strong team result on the Spanish tarmac could be enough to secure the title.

“For Toyota, the manufacturer title is really really important,” said Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala.

“Of course, the driver’s title is very important as well but I would say it is even slightly more important than the driver’s title.

“We are looking forward to trying to secure it. We have a good chance and we are really looking forward to getting it because if we don’t get it we are under quite a lot of pressure in Rally Japan [next month], so it would ease off a lot of pressure from our shoulders.”

Toyota emerged fastest from this morning’s rain-affected shakedown with Sebastien Ogier setting the pace, 0.9s faster than teammate Takamoto Katsuta, while the hard tyre shod M-Sport of Pierre-Louis Loubet was third.

M-Sport and Hyundai crews all elected to take hard tyres instead of the softs selected by Toyota which affected their times. Ott Tanak was the top Hyundai in 11th overall.

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