Evans: Portugal road position no “automatic ticket” to result
The championship runner-up from the past two seasons has endured a slow start to the 2022 season highlighted by retirements in Monte Carlo and Sweden.
Evans picked up much needed first solid points haul of the season finishing fifth in Rally Croatia, but remains 59 points adrift of championship leader and Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanpera.
Virtue of his difficult start to the year, the Welshman will receive a significant road position advantage heading into this weekend’s first gravel rally of the season in Portugal this weekend.
Last year’s Portugal winner will start ninth on the road when the rally begins on Thursday and will be aiming to benefit from much cleaner road conditions compared to his rivals.
Despite the advantage, he says road position alone won’t be enough to secure a strong result.
“As with a lot of rallies this year, it’s difficult to know how we will fare against the competition in our first event on gravel with the Rally1 cars, but the feeling in testing last week was generally quite positive,” said Evans.
“Portugal is a rally I’ve enjoyed more and more as the years have gone on, and it was great to win there last year. We could definitely do with a strong result on this occasion too and that will be the aim like always.
“With a run of gravel events coming up, hopefully we can hit the ground running in Portugal and then carry some momentum forwards.
“If it’s dry then our road position should be favourable, but that’s not an automatic ticket to a good result and there’s still a lot to focus on and to get right in order to make the most of it, especially as everyone tries to get comfortable in these cars.”
Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images
In contrast, his championship rival Rovanpera faces the opposite in terms of road conditions, with the Finn acting as road sweeper, a position he has little experience to draw from.
“The feeling with the new car on gravel has been quite good overall, especially in our pre-event test last week with some improvements made from before,” said Rovanpera.
“Portugal is a rally that I usually like; the stages are nice and technical and there is a great atmosphere.
“For us, the road-cleaning will probably be the biggest challenge, especially as it’s something quite new for us. Friday could be much more important than on other rallies and we will try to be at a good pace straightaway to remain in contention for the rest of the weekend.
“The key thing in these next rallies will be to just try to keep calm and focus on doing a good job, without taking too much pressure or making mistakes, and keep taking good points where we can.”
Rally Portugal begins on Thursday night with a special stage head in Coimbra town centre to the south of the rally’s host city Porto.