Elfyn Evans is on the cusp of history. Leading the points heading into the final round of this year’s World Rally Championship (WRC), this weekend's Rally Monza in Italy, the Welshman is close to becoming just the third Brit to claim the title, after Colin McRae and Richard Burns. You might have heard of them.
It’s an elite list and one that, in truth, few would have expected Evans to have a chance of joining at the start of the 2020 season. When the 31-year-old was announced as part of an all-new line-up at Toyota’s title-winning rally squad, he was expected to be the solid number two to six-time world champion team-mate Sébastien Ogier, a useful dose of steady experience while hotly tipped 20-year-old Kalle Rovanperä learnt his trade in a third Yaris WRC.
But in a year when little has gone as expected, Evans’ form has been a major surprise. He starred on the Monte Carlo Rally and then became the first British driver to win on the snow-covered Rally Sweden. A well-judged win in Turkey has helped him establish a 14-point lead over Ogier.
It’s a major jump in form for a driver who had taken just one WRC win before this year. And while switching from the privateer M-Sport Ford team to Toyota’s manufacturer squad helped, the fact that he’s rivalling Ogier for pace in the same car shows this isn’t just about machinery.
So, what has made the difference? “Settling into a new team, I was a bit apprehensive,” says Evans. “M-Sport had become as much a home as a team. But immediately I felt at home in the car, with a good feeling for what was going on underneath me. It has been okay: I’m not completely satisfied with everything we’ve done – or I’ve done – but overall, it has been good.”
As his comments suggest, Evans isn’t a particularly flamboyant or extravagant rally driver. He remains as unassumingly polite and friendly as when he first started rallying in a 1.0-litre Nissan Micra aged 17. And he still lives within five miles of his home town of Dolgellau in North Wales.