Elfyn Evans sent it big to win his first WRC of the season in Portugal
© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
WRC

If anyone needed a reminder of Elfyn Evans’s rally skills, Portugal was it

After losing out on the last corner in Croatia, Elfyn Evans's first WRC success of the season at Rally de Portugal means he leaves the race just two points behind championship leader Sébastien Ogier.
Written by David Evans
Published on
Part of this story

FIA World Rally Championship

FIA World Rally Championship

Portugal

Elfyn Evans

United KingdomUnited Kingdom

Sébastien Ogier

FranceFrance

Daniel Sordo

SpainSpain

Thierry Neuville

BelgiumBelgium
Stepping out of his Toyota Yaris WRC, Elfyn Evans looked slightly quizzical. Yes, he had won Rally de Portugal, but there was one aspect of that victory he wasn’t so sure about.
Taking a moment, he pulled the Red Bull cap onto the top of his head and the obligatory facemask beneath it: "It is four, isn’t it…"
Even with the mask covering the smile, the Welshman's eyes were shining at a fourth career World Rally Championship win.
"To be honest, I was trying to remember how many it was once we were over the line," he said.
Catch the action from the final day's racing in Portugal:
WRC · 6 min
Sunday action from Portugal
Four Sundays earlier, Evans lost a final-day fight for a Croatia Rally victory to team-mate Sébastien Ogier. In Portugal, he went into the final five stages with 10 seconds in hand over Hyundai rival Dani Sordo and he put them to the very best use to avoid a seventh career second place in the world championship.
It was Sunday's opener, the Felgueiras test, which put the result beyond the Spaniard. Evans was precisely a second faster over each of the stage's nine kilometres.
"I liked that one after the recce," said Evans. "It was a new road, one we hadn't been to before, and I just wanted to give it a good shot this morning. It was a good run and I was pretty happy when I saw that time."
Not this time. I wasn't going to lose another one."
Elfyn Evans
Evans is pragmatic enough to know that his Toyota team trailed Hyundai in terms of pure pace for much of the fourth round of the championship. Sordo led early on, with his fellow i20 Coupe WRC driver Ott Tänak taking over the top spot from the seventh stage. When the right-rear wheel on the Estonian's car broke free from its position on the final stage of significance on Saturday, though, Evans hit the front.
This time, he wasn't going to let it slip: "Not this time. I wasn't going to lose another one."
Dani Sordo of Hyundai Shell Mobis seen performing during the World Rally Championship Portugal in Porto, Portugal on 22 May, 2021.
Dani Sordo is gravel master, but couldn't match Evans on the deciding day

How did Hyundai drop the ball?

It took until the seventh stage on Friday for a Toyota driver to break Hyundai's stranglehold on the top-three positions. Until then, Thierry Neuville had been on impressive form. Second behind Sordo, that speed belied the fact he was running second on the road, sweeping away loose gravel to uncover a faster line with more grip for his rivals who followed.
Neuville's early-season consistency (a trio of third places from the first three WRC encounters) went south in SS7, when he damaged the right-rear of his car and was forced into retirement.
24 hours later and Tänak’s car was also down and out, leaving Sordo surrounded by Toyotas.
Deeply frustrated, Hyundai Motorsport team principal Andrea Adamo instructed Sordo to win the rally: "He (Adamo) told me he had two cars out already and it's the same to have three out!"
Thierry Neuville of team Hyundai Shell Mobisare seen racing during the World Rally Championship Portugal in Porto, Portugal on May 23, 2021.
Thierry Neuville was well in contention until he damaged his Hyundai
By Sunday morning, there was a touch more ambiguity in the instruction. Sordo relayed a message of driving how he wanted, but making sure the car was at the finish and collecting valuable manufacturer points.
Successive wins on the Sardinian gravel have demonstrated Sordo's speed on the loose stuff, but he couldn’t live with Evans on Sunday morning. Looking at the times and a deficit which had doubled, the verdict was delivered with trademark honesty.
"I made some mistakes," he said. "I'm not happy. I'm trying to keep the pressure on him, but I don't want to make a big mistake. I tried again in the next stage, but I could feel the rear of the car moving. There was no grip."
Second place beckoned as Ogier made his former team-mate the Hyundai meat in a Toyota sandwich.
I would always rather to take points than sacrifice them for a better place on the road at the next round

Ogier did what Ogier does

Ahead of the event, championship leader Sébastien Ogier seriously doubted his ability to remain at the top of the table come Sunday afternoon – such was the handicap of running first on Friday.
"I would definitely have signed for this on Friday morning," said Ogier, championship leader by two points from Evans, on Sunday afternoon. "I would have signed with both hands. This is as good as I could have hoped for. OK, it's going to be difficult going to Sardinia next week to open the road again, but I would always rather to take the points in my pocket than sacrifice them for a better place on the road at the next round."
Adrien Fourmaux of team M-Sport Ford seen racing during the World Rally Championship Portugal in Porto, Portugal on May 23, 2021.
M-Sport's Adrien Fourmaux impressed once again in Portugal
Ultimately, Kalle Rovanperä's retirement with a technical issue was the only blot on what turned out to be a successful round for Toyota, where Takamoto Katsuta once again delivered good news for the Japanese manufacturer. He enjoyed a career-best fourth place with a stunning drive, quick enough to trouble Ogier on Saturday.
M-Sport Ford drivers Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux also demonstrated pace and potential to round out the top six, while Esapekka Lappi dominated the WRC2 category for the second time this season.
Part of this story

FIA World Rally Championship

FIA World Rally Championship

Portugal

Elfyn Evans

United KingdomUnited Kingdom

Sébastien Ogier

FranceFrance

Daniel Sordo

SpainSpain

Thierry Neuville

BelgiumBelgium