By Paul Evans
Elfyn Evans finished 12th on Rally Turkey after showing what a magnificent team player he is by sacrificing a great comeback result to help his team-mates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia keep their FIA World Rally Championship title hopes alive.
Evans’ hope of victory vanished on Friday when he hit a massive rock in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC on SS6 and broke the car’s suspension.
Co-driven by Dan Barritt, he returned under the Rally 2 rules on Saturday and, not for the first time this year, showed what could have been by working his way back up to seventh after a stunning performance saw him set second fastest time on stages 11, 12 and 13.
The rock-strewn gravel roads had taken a heavy toll, with many of the top crews hitting major problems – including Evans’ team-mate Ogier, who broke a wishbone on his Fiesta WRC.
Evans, who is one of the most highly skilled mechanics in the WRC, stopped on a road section to help Ogier – and so good was the emergency roadside repairs that Ogier set the fastest time on the next stage! Evans then worked on his own car during the following 30 minute mid-day service, allowing the M-Sport mechanics to concentrate on replacing Ogier’s transmission and front suspension.
However, when Ogier misheard a pacenote and went off the road on SS11, Evans had to play the team game again on the final day. It was Ogier’s turn to restart under Rally 2 rules and to help him get into a points-scoring position, Evans booked into a time control five minutes early – giving him a big enough time penalty to put Ogier ahead of him.
Ogier eventually scored five championship points, exactly the same as WRC leaders Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai). However, Ogier drops to third in the drivers’ standings, thanks to Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota) who scored their third win in a row (and their fourth win of the season) to make it a close three way fight for the drivers’ title heading into next month’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB.
“It was a frustrating Friday with a lot of different issues which eventually resulted in retirement when striking a rock on the line which couldn’t be avoided,” said Evans. “We had a pretty solid day on Saturday and were able to show good pace whilst keeping out of trouble. But today we had to drop time and assist Sébastien with his championship defence.”
“Elfyn might have had his fair share of bad luck on Friday, but he came back fighting with good speed and proved what a strong team player he is too,” added M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson.
Rally Turkey – leading finishing positions
1. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:59:24.5
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +22.3
3. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshal (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:46.3
4. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:10.9
5. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +7:11.7
12. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +22:09.0