Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Ishani Aziz
The world of rallying moves and evolves fast, which means, no matter who you are, a hotshot rookie or a multiple times world champion, if you’re not performing well enough, you’ll be left behind. This is the position Welshman Elfyn Evans risks finding himself in if he continues his current trajectory. But how did Evans get here, when he spent the last two seasons challenging the greatest driver of his generation, Sebastien Ogier, for the championship while they were teammates?
Son of 1996 British Rally Champion Gwyndaf Evans, Elfyn spent most of his career in Ford machinery, competing in Group N, the British Junior rally championship, as well as a heap of other competitions (all in Fiestas). Eventually he joined M-Sport in 2013, completing his first rally in Sardinia in sixth place. He earned a regular place in the team over the next two seasons, though despite earning two podiums, he was demoted to the WRC2 in 2016. A great season with a total of three wins and a final position of second in the standings meant a return to the WRC the next year with M-Sport’s DMACK car, in which he won his first World Rally in Wales.
After two fairly good seasons with M-Sport the Welshman moved to the Toyota team, starting from 2020. He immediately proved why they chose him, winning his second rally with the team in Sweden. That feat earned him the championship lead for the first time in his career, though he ended up second to teammate Ogier by just nine points by the end of the year. Elfyn had a mediocre start to 2021, but after a win in Finland, he was consistent enough to once again be a threat to Ogier, although he again came second best, this time by 23 points.
With Ogier retiring at the end of 2021, Evans looked like the hot favourite to win the championship, but that has not materialised. Starting with Monte Carlo, Evans was a comfortable third when he went out by himself on the Saturday loop. He was running second in Sweden, chasing teammate Kalle Rovanpera, when he again crashed out on Saturday, this time right in front of the finishing line.
An early retirement in Sardinia on Friday morning left him out of contention for the remainder of the weekend. Things have improved however, with Evans scoring three second place finishes in Portugal, Kenya, and last time out at Estonia. Despite those victories, he’s currently sitting third (nearly 100 points behind Rovanperä) with just over half the season gone, and only six rallies remaining.
Results really do speak for themselves: Evans has had a poor year so far and for two main reasons. First, is his habit of crashing while being in a relatively good position. Evans has lost too many valuable points in the championship by simply crashing out of a rally, seemingly for no real reason other than pushing too hard when it wasn’t needed (a mistake his younger teammate hasn’t made yet.) The other is that he just can’t match teammate Rovanperä on pure pace. In three out of the last four rallies Evans got in the lead, only to lose it to the Finn, who then is always able to open up a healthy gap to the Welshman and never look back.
Of course, luck hasn’t always been on Evans’ side, mainly in Croatia and Sardinia, but most of his points losses this year are down to driver error. So, is all hope lost then? Well next up is rally Finland, the place where Elfyn’s campaign was saved 12 months ago. He’ll be hoping for a repeat of last year’s results, along with a bit of misfortune for his teammate, to thrust him back to the championship challenge a driver like him deserves to be in.