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Tue 03 May 2022

Croatian clouds have a silver lining for Evans

Elfyn Evans is pinning his hopes on the ‘silver lining’ of an advantageous road position at the year’s first gravel fixture in Portugal after another disappointing outing at the Croatia Rally.

Starting the current FIA World Rally Championship campaign after finishing second to Sébastien Ogier in 2020 and 2021 ensured the Welshman joined the ranks of pre-season title favourites.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing man was heading for a podium finish at Rallye Monte-Carlo before sliding off the road, leaving his GR Yaris perched on the edge of a steep drop. Second was on the cards in Sweden until he slammed into a snowbank on the final morning and retired.

Two opening day punctures in Croatia last month meant Evans had a lonely run to fifth, leaving him ninth in the championship standings and 59 points adrift of team-mate and leader Kalle Rovanperä,

The upside is running ninth in the start order for the opening leg of Vodafone Rally de Portugal (19 - 22 May). That would be a huge advantage if conditions are dry and the slippery sandy roads are cleaned by the early starters to leave more grip for those behind.

“That’s the one silver lining, I guess, from all the bad rallies we have had,” said Evans. “That [start position] will be favourable for at least a few rallies more, I would say.

“We’re going into gravel rallies now and we will have a good place on the road there. That’s the positive. Obviously, this isn’t the start to the season that we wanted, there’s no way of getting away from the fact we’ve had three tough rallies.

“The thing we have to try to do now is relax and use the position we have on the road – and hope it doesn’t rain in Portugal!”

Evans admitted his pace on the loose last season gives him confidence ahead of the Matosinhos-based event.

“We were in a worse place on the road on a lot of gravel rallies last year and we were still able to fight for wins and podiums. Let’s see. I haven’t done a lot with the car on gravel and this is the first outing for the team and for the car on a gravel [WRC] round,” he added.

In contrast to Portugal, Evans knew a low opening day start position in Croatia would be a disadvantage as dirt dragged onto the road from cars ahead cutting corners made traction tricky. Heavy rain made the asphalt even dirtier.

“We knew coming into the weekend and seeing the weather that it would always be difficult to fight from that position on the road,” he explained. “That’s how it turned out on Friday, but two punctures as well was what really cost us.

“From there it was really difficult to do anything we weren’t really in any fight so we just had to try to salvage what we could from the weekend.”

Video: Croatia Rally in slow motion