By Paul Evans
Elfyn Evans made an astonishing comeback on the Acropolis Rally, but the gearbox problems that prevented him from challenging for victory in Greece have all-but ended his chances of becoming world rally champion this year.
The Dolgellau ace was flying in his Toyota Yaris WRC over the opening two stages of the event and was lying in third place, just 1.7 seconds behind the leader, when his problems hit.
On the road section to the next stage, the gear shift stopped working.
And not even Evans’ legendary car mechanic skills could fix this problem.
Rather than inherit a hefty amount of penalties for skipping the next four stages and re-starting the following day, Evans decided to nurse the car to the end of the day – and the service halt which would see replacement parts installed.
It was a wise move, but nonetheless the time lost still dropped him and co-driver Scott Martin down to 15th position.
Despite knowing that his hopes of an Acropolis Rally victory, and probably the world title, were over, Evans launched a fantastic comeback.
He was up to seventh by the end of the following day’s group of six stages and set a blistering time on the final day’s bonus points-scoring Power Stage – beaten only by event runaway winners Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen – to finish sixth.
The biggest for problem for Evans now is that there are only three rounds of the World Rally Championship remaining, and he is now 44 points behind Sébastien Ogier.
The Frenchman, co-driven by Julien Ingrassia, can cruise to his eighth world title – a steady bag of points next month in Finland and Spain would be enough to seal the championship before the final round in Monza in November (which has replaced the cancelled Rally Japan).
“This was not our weekend, but these things happen in rallying and it’s been very rare at this team to have an issue like we had on Friday,” said Evans.
“The feeling in the car was generally quite good.
“Getting sixth place in the end today was a bit of a gift with an issue that somebody else had this morning.
“Maybe it was not a perfect run on the Power Stage for us, but four bonus points is still a good addition and at least we managed to salvage something from the weekend.”
The next round of the WRC is the ultra-fast and flowing Rally Finland (1-3 October), based in Jyväskylä,