Thu 07 Dec 2023

Portuguese Pitfall: Evans' turning point in 2023 WRC title race

Portugal. Elfyn Evans’ answer is as emphatic as it is immediate.

The Welshman is never going to pinpoint a single place where his 2023 Drivers’ title hopes went south, but crashing out of this year’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal didn’t help.

“That one really wasn’t great,” is the Toyota star’s slightly understated consideration.

“OK, Sardinia and Kenya weren’t maybe the best, but Portugal…”

He doesn’t need to finish the sentence.

And it’s very hard to argue. Leading the FIA World Rally Championship coming out of the previous event in Croatia, Evans and co-driver Scott Martin were hoping to further that top-of-the-table advantage and instead they ended their event in the Portuguese trees after what was one of the season’s higher-speed crashes.

In terms of consistency, you couldn’t fault Evans; he was in the top-five on 11 of the 13 events. In terms of victories, you couldn’t fault Evans; nobody won more WRC rounds than him this season (his Toyota team-mates Kalle Rovanperä and Sébastien Ogier also won three each).

Similarly, his opportunism was absolutely on the money as well. When Rovanperä went off in Finland, Evans was like a rat up the proverbial drainpipe delivering a perfect 30-pointer in Jyväskylä. But when Rovanperä returned in Greece, there was no stopping the Finn.

Ultimately, none of the season’s full-timers were capable of stopping the champ’s march to back-to-back crowns, but Evans third silver medal in four years was arguably his most promising yet.

He’s found comfort and confidence in the GR Yaris Rally1 and that must sound alarm bells for his rivals looking forward to next year.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM