Croatian clouds have a silver lining for Evans


Starting the current FIA World Rally Championship campaign having finished second to Sebastien Ogier in 2020 and 2021 saw the Welshman join the ranks of pre-season title favourites.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing man was heading for a podium at Rallye Monte-Carlo before crashing off the road, leaving his GR Yaris perched on the edge of a steep incline. The second was on the cards in Sweden until he hit a snow bank on the final morning and gave up.

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

Upstream is ninth in the starting order for stage one of the Vodafone Rally de Portugal (19-22 May). It would be a huge advantage if the conditions are dry and the slippery sandy roads are cleared by early starters to leave more grip for those behind.

Video: Rally Croatia in Slow Motion

“That’s the only positive, I guess, of all the bad rallies we’ve had,” Evans said. “That [start position] will be favorable for at least a few more rallies I would say.

“We will now do some gravel rallies and we will have a good place on the road there. It’s the positive. Obviously it’s not the start to the season we wanted, there’s no escaping the fact that we’ve had three tough rallies.

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

Evans admitted his free pace last season gave him confidence ahead of the Matosinhos-based event.

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

Unlike in Portugal, Evans knew a low starting position in Croatia would be a disadvantage, as dirt dragged down the road by cars having to cut corners made traction difficult. Heavy rain made the asphalt even dirtier.

“We knew going into the weekend and seeing the weather that it would always be tough to fight from that position on the road,” he explained. “That’s how it happened on Friday, but two punctures too, that’s what really cost us.

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

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