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Evans: Driving to smartphone WRC pacenotes “almost as good as normal”

Elfyn Evans says driving World Rally Championship stages to pacenotes from a smartphone was “almost as good as normal” following a bizarre incident at Rally Portugal.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Evans was forced to drive to pacenotes read from a smartphone by his co-driver Scott Martin for three stages after the latter left his pacenote book at time control at the end of stage six.

The unusual incident was triggered by a bottleneck at the end of stage 6. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe faced a delay as officials marked their timecard that required Wydaeghe to exit his vehicle to speak to officials.

The issue hadn’t been resolved by the time Evans pulled up resulting in Martin leaving the car to hand his timecard to an official. Martin opted to carry his pacenote book with him to the time control desk and accidentally left the book on the table before returning back to his Toyota.

After realising he was without his pacenotes, Martin was forced to resort to reading a digitised set of pacenotes from his tiny mobile phone screen. Luckily the veteran co-driver has always created digital notes as backup - this being the first time he has needed to deploy them.

While using a smartphone brought with it unique challenges, Evans was impressed by how well his co-driver coped.

“I was very surprised how well he was doing to be honest,” Evans told Autosport.

“There was obviously the odd stumble when the phone didn’t do what he wanted, but otherwise it wasn’t disturbing and almost as good as the normal thing.”

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Martin admitted the moment he realised the error brought on a moment of panic, but he was glad he had a backup plan and surprised himself by how well he coped.

“I thought to myself one day I might be in the situation where I don’t have them [pacenotes] or they are lost,” Martin told Autosport.

“You never stop learning and thinking of ways to have yourself covered. I say it quite a lot to expect the unexpected and try to have a backup plan. All those years of scanning them and having them digitally paid off.

“I didn’t know how it was going to go. My eyes were starting to get a bit weaker especially when you are looking at digital screens. I surprised myself. I was just worried about all kinds of things like making sure the phone was on airplane mode and thinking about all the things the phone has that you don’t really use. I had nothing distracting me, so no notifications popping up.”

When asked if the system could be the future of co-driving, Martin added: “I don’t believe it is the future, I still like pen and paper.”

The pacenote issue contributed to what was a difficult day for Evans who had been struggling for confidence in his GR Yaris before a puncture in stage seven quashed any hopes of a podium finish.

“There is not a lot of positives to take, basically everything we touched has gone wrong, but that is how it is,” said Evans who ended Friday in eighth, 1m43.2s adrift of leader Kalle Rovanpera with title rival Neuville in sixth.

“I think we worked through some things that felt better [on the car] but I still don’t think we found the ultimate package yet. I think there are answers in there somewhere.

“It is just about learning something now, I think. There is nothing to fight for as such in terms of catching somebody on pure pace unless somebody has trouble, so we just try to go out there and have a good feeling with the car.”

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