By Gareth James
The Dolgellau-born racer crashed out on the Gerosa SS11 on Rally Monza while lying third and looking on course to become the first Welsh driver to win the title.
Evans could still return for tomorrow’s final stages – including the power stage which carries a maximum five points – but even that might not matter.
The 31-year-old leads Sebastien Ogier by 14 points but his Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate will be certain of a seventh title if he wins the rally.
“At the start of the stage, there was a lot of standing water, but I felt like we were having a clean and tidy run,” said a gutted Evans. “Then it slowly became snowy and I just kept thinking I was going a bit too slow – that was the general feeling.
“The snow got a bit worse, but still the grip we had for the most part was not bad at all. We came around a flat right corner with a short braking and the surface of the Tarmac had changed.
“When I braked on that, it was just like glass and there was no chance of us slowing down at all. It completely caught me by surprise, but that’s how it goes I guess.”
— Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT (@TGR_WRC) December 5, 2020
“It’s not ideal – that’s more or less game over now, but what can I say? You have to be there, you have to try.
“You’re not going to win anything by sitting around at the back and I think everybody was having to take some sort of chance. I actually had the surface change in my notes but I didn’t anticipate it would be as extreme.
“What can you do? It’s tough now, for sure, but that’s how it is. It’s not completely over until it’s over but obviously it’s a lot easier for Seb [Ogier] to get the job done now.
“From my side, I’m really gutted for the team to be honest because from the Manufacturers’ side it was looking really good on Toyota Gazoo Racing’s part. My mistake has really put a spanner in that job as well, so I’m really sorry.
“We had a fantastic car and a fantastic crew all year, so obviously I’m disappointed for myself but I’m disappointed for them as well.”
Ogier currently leads by just over 20 seconds and only has four stages around Monza’s F1 track to negotiate after SS12 was later cancelled due to the dangerous conditions.
Evans, who had not finished lower than fourth in a rally this season, will need the Frenchman to suffer a mechanical failure or make a mistake at one of the chicanes to take the title.
It’s unlikely, but not impossible with Thierry Neuville seeing his rally and slim title hopes ended when he hit a chicane on Friday and beached his Hyundai in the water.
Evans was 4.5secs up on Ogier and closing in on at least second place in the standings on the stage when the rear of his Toyota Yaris got away from him in the snowy and treacherous conditions at a tight right-hander.
Evans slid down a bank and into retirement and though both he and co-driver Scott Martin are OK he now needs a miracle to clinch the title.
“My first reaction is I have to not do the same,” Ogier said after the stage, having narrowly avoided a similar fate on the treacherous roads of northern Italy.
“It was incredible, the corner he went off there’s nothing you can do it’s just like ice. They slowed me down and I nearly went off.
“I’m sorry for Elfyn. The championship is not over so I have to make it through and it’s a very big challenge. We had a good fight, we had good fun but the last moment is not really fighting it’s surviving.”
Evans’ Toyota WRT boss and ex-champion Tommi Makinen said: “It’s crazy.
“Crazy conditions, there’s just no words – only we won’t see a new champion.
“Elfyn handled it very well and had an incredible drive. It’s so difficult to understand what is the correct speed in these kinds of conditions.”