By Paul Evans
Elfyn Evans set the fifth fastest time on the closing Power Stage to score a consolation point on the Rally Italia Sardegna, in another what could have been round of the FIA World Rally Championship for the 29-year old driver.
The Dolgellau ace was fourth after the opening stage on Thursday night, but was forced to stop and replace a broken steering arm on his M-Sport run Ford Fiesta WRC on the first stage on Friday morning. He and co-driver Daniel Barritt lost 13 minutes and dropped to 43rd, as all hopes of victory disappeared.
Evans began an impressive fight back that, despite running first on the road on Saturday, saw him finish the day in 14th position. It was impossible to make further progress up the leaderboard on the short final Sunday route, leaving Evans to set the fifth fastest time on the Power Stage to score a bonus point and show what could have been.
It’s not been the successful first half of the FIA World Rally Championship that Evans wanted it to be – save for second place on Rally Portugal – and he’ll use the summer break to regroup and plot how to turn his event winning speed into consistent top results.
He must have surely exhausted all his bad luck by now – and hopefully it’s a good omen that the second half of the season begins with Rally Finland (27‐29 July) – an event where Evans secured a sensational second place finish last year.
“It’s been a frustrating weekend – especially as the feeling in the car was really good on Friday morning,” said Evans. “A relevantly small error proved pretty costly, and when you drop thirteen minutes there is very little to fight for. We managed to salvage a point from the Power Stage which was some consolation, and now we’ll have a few weeks off before getting fully focused ahead of the next one in Finland.”
Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai) won Rally Italia Sardegna by 0.7 seconds after overtaking Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford) on the final stage. Ogier was in danger of losing the points he’d won for finishing second after leaving the end of the penultimate stage without his time card. The essential bit of paperwork was kindly delivered to the five-time World Champion by Toyota driver Ott Tänak – although that bit of sportsmanship was considered to be a breach of the regulations prohibiting competitors receiving items from a third party. Officials removed the 22 points Ogier gained from the rally and the 18 points earned by his M-Sport Ford team – but the penalty was suspended, meaning it will only be applied if the offence is repeated between now and the end of the season. He was also given a financial slap on the wrist in the form of a 10,000 Euro fine.