Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Elfyn Evans lost ground to Hyundai Motorsports Thierry Neuville in the race for victory in Rally Spain, the penultimate event of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship season on Saturday despite the disappointing day for Evans, he has managed to keep the in-house Toyota battle for the driver’s championship alive as he holds a 22.3s lead over his teammate and championship rival Sebastien Ogier.
Speaking following the action on Saturday, Evans said:
“We didn’t have a such a great day today and not what we wanted. The times were OK but not as good as yesterday obviously. We tried to improve the car in certain areas, like in the dirty places where we were struggling yesterday afternoon – and also this morning when we were running further back on the road. To an extent we managed to improve that, but in the process we affected the overall balance of the car. We had to try something but it didn’t work out: I never really found the sweet spot and never felt as comfortable as yesterday. Here you have to be very confident, and I wasn’t at my very best today and it showed in the times. But tomorrow we’ll keep trying.”
Championship leader Ogier saw his advantage over fourth place reduced during the morning loop but he responded spectacularly in the afternoon after setup changes in service, setting the fastest time in both SS11 and SS12. Although time was lost in the evening’s closing street stage, he is still 1.2s ahead of the driver in fourth. By occupying second and third overall, the team remains on course towards its goal of securing the manufacturers’ championship on Sunday, depending on the results of the Power Stage.
Speaking following the action, Ogier commented saying:
“This morning some things had been improved: I was more happy with the balance and I could enjoy driving the car more in the clean sections at least. Still, the times were not so great. But we continued to work on the car setup and after service it was starting to feel better and the times were coming and we had a great afternoon. Unfortuantely the engine stalled on a hairpin in the final stage so it is close again behind, but the positive is that the car is suiting me and the pace is there so I’m still very confident going into tomorrow.”
Kalle Rovanpera is currently in fifth place overall and speaking following the action on Saturday the Finn said:
“The pace was much better today and we could do good times without taking maximum risk. We made some more setup changes last night and already the first stage this morning was really nice in quite tricky conditions with a bit of fog and some damp places. We had a slow puncture on the second stage and then a big moment on the third one, but overall it was quite a good morning and I was happy with the car. The afternoon was again quite tricky with a lot of gravel from the cuts, but we were not in a big fight anymore so we took it steady without big risks, and I’m learning all the time. Tomorrow the target is to finish the rally safely but also try to push for points on the Power Stage.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“It has not been a bad day for us but unfortunately the rally win is a bit further away tonight than when we started this morning. The level is so high in this championship at the moment that you always have to try to improve the car, but if you make just a small change and you’re not so confident anymore, you see it immediately in the stage times, and that was the case for Elfyn today. Still we had some positives today, because Sébastien had better speed this afternoon after the changes he made at lunchtime and we were fighting for the stage wins again. Unfortunately he lost some seconds in the final stage tonight, but we are still on target and if we can get second and third at the end of the rally tomorrow it would be important for the manufacturers’ title.”