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WRC Rally Finland

Finland domination “possibly” Evans’ best WRC Rally1 performance

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans reckons his Saturday domination at Rally Finland was “possibly” his best performance in a World Rally Championship Rally1 car.

Elfyn Evans, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Evans won seven of the day’s eight stages to open up a 32.1s lead over Hyundai WRC title rival Thierry Neuville, with four stages remaining on Sunday.

The highlight was a stunning effort in stage 15 where he was 7.8s faster than rival Neuville across 18.94 kilometres of slippery gravel roads.

Evans has shown strong pace throughout the rally to match the performance of rally favourite and Friday’s leader Kalle Rovanpera, before the world champion exited the rally following a spectacular roll on stage eight.

The Welshman has, however, openly admitted that it has taken time to adjust Rally1 hybrid machinery since they were introduced last year, after finishing runner-up in the championship in 2020 and 2021, driving the previous generation WRC cars.

After finishing 2022 without a victory, the 34-year-old has delivered much stronger results this season, ending his victory drought in Croatia in April.

While admitting it is difficult to judge his pace with Rovanpera, M-Sport’s Ott Tanak and Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi having retired from this weekend’s rally, he feels Saturday could be his best showing in a Rally1 car to date.

“Possibly [it is my best day in Rally1 car], it is a bit hard to judge obviously with half the cars missing," Evans, who won Rally Finland in 2021, told Autosport.

“It is hard to really judge how quick we really are going, but still even when I compare to yesterday I think I have driven a bit better, especially this morning.

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

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

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“I hate to say that it comes easy because it doesn’t come easy, but when things just click and work, you are not forcing yourself and you don’t feel uncomfortable, and you don’t feel like you are taking crazy risks. It just sort of happens.

“You are still driving very quickly obviously. Things have been working well and it has just come together.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s final four stages, Evans doesn’t plan to alter his approach despite holding a comfortable lead.

“There won’t be much relaxing,” he added.

“But of course if there is something tricky or there is stone I don’t like the look of, it is that type of thing rather than really dropping the pace.

“I think you still need to have a rhythm to make the car work in the correct way. There will be an edge taken off but no more.”

Neuville admitted that on pure performance he was unable to match Evans as his Hyundai struggled to find traction in the wet conditions.

“It definitely was tricky. Weather conditions and road conditions were really tricky yesterday and today,” Neuville told Autosport.

Thierry Neuville, Hyundai World Rally Team

Thierry Neuville, Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“The last stage was really challenging again so I’m happy to get to the finish and I’m happy with P2 at the moment. There was nothing more we could have done to catch P1.

“We must be satisfied with that and if we bring home those points tomorrow and some from the Power Stage, it is a very good result.

“We are struggling with the rear and with the traction and maybe the reactivity and the movement of the car. They are small things we need to work on.”

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