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Wed 26 Apr 2023

Latvala: Croatia win demonstrates Elfyn’s title aspirations

Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala says Elfyn Evans’ Croatia Rally victory will bring a welcome confidence boost for the Welshman.

Evans and co-driver Scott Martin triumphed at the FIA World Rally Championship’s fourth round last week, ending a victory drought which had lasted for over 18 months - stretching back to Secto Rally Finland in 2021.

That result, Latvala says, has demonstrated Evans’ potential to fight for the drivers’ championship crown this year. The Welshman jointly tops the standings with GR Yaris team-mate Sébastien Ogier heading into next month’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal (11 - 14 May).

“I know myself that, when it’s been a long time and you haven’t won an event, you start to think about it and it starts to go a little bit in your thoughts,” Latvala said. “You start to create yourself a bit of pressure.

“On Friday evening on Elfyn’s face I could see the smile, and I knew from that moment he has got the good self-confidence, the confidence is there. I think this pressure, this burden, is now taken from Elfyn’s shoulders - and that’s a very strong message for the rest of the championship.”

Latvala also praised the duo for their strength in returning to action following the passing of close friend Craig Breen.

“It was a tough weekend to come here, mentally and emotionally,” added the Finn. “All I can say is that the best pair of the rally won this. Scott has been a co-driver to Craig in the past, and Elfyn has been good friends with Craig.

“They went to see Craig’s family just one week before the rally, and coming to here was not easy. They did really, really well. I’m so pleased for Elfyn and Scott.”

Although Evans was not scoring manufacturers’ championship points in Croatia, his team extended its lead to 29 points over Hyundai thanks to the results of Ogier (fourth) and Kalle Rovanperä (fifth).