Elfyn Evans’ dreams of becoming the first Welsh driver to win the FIA World Rally Championship were dashed when he crashed out of the title-decider in northern Italy.
The 31-year-old from Dolgellau arrived at the ACI Rally Monza holding a 14-point advantage over his Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Sébastien Ogier and, despite some atrocious weather conditions, at the mid-point seemed on target to become only the third British driver to lift the WRC crown after Colin McRae and Richard Burns.
The championship favourite, however, was then caught out by the tricky conditions in the Italian Alps. On treacherous snow-covered roads, his Toyota Yaris slid wide on a corner, slipped down a bank and into a tree. Although the damage was minimal, he and co-driver Scott Martin were unable to get the car back on the road to complete the stage.
“Obviously I’m feeling massively disappointed – and, of course it’s what could have been,” admitted a bitterly disappointed Evans. “We came around a flat right corner with a short braking and the surface of the Tarmac had changed. When I braked on that, it was just like glass and there was no chance of us slowing down at all. It completely caught me by surprise,” admitted Evans.
“You have to be there, you have to try. You’re not going to win anything by sitting around at the back and I think everybody was having to take some sort of chance. I actually had the surface change in my notes, but I didn’t anticipate it would be as extreme.”
Sportingly, Evans ran back down the road to warn Ogier of the impending hazard and thus prevented his title rival experiencing a similar fate. “Where Elfyn went off, it could have happened to anybody,” agreed the Frenchman. “They slowed me down and I just made the corner. The grip change on that corner was just impossible to anticipate – it was like being on ice.”
Evans’ sad demise and his generous gesture, effectively handed the rally victory and a seventh world title to a relieved Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia who was quick to commiserate with the unfortunate Welshman.
“We feel sorry for Elfyn,” Ogier said after safely crossing the finishing line. “We had great fun fighting each other this season and next year I am sure it will be the same.”
Despite ultimately missing out on the title, Evans still has had a break-through season scoring victories in Sweden and Turkey to add to his maiden WRC win on Wales Rally GB in 2017 – wins that secured a career-best second place in the final 2020 standings.
“Though obviously saddened that Elfyn has just missed out on the title, we are immensely proud of his achievements in what has been an incredibly challenging season,” lauded Hugh Chambers, Chief Executive of Motorsport UK, organiser of Wales Rally GB. “Since joining Toyota Gazoo Racing at the start of this season, he has become a major world championship contender and we are already excited about his prospects for 2021.”