EV Cargo brand ambassador Elfyn Evans scored his first victory of the season after mastering the tough gravel roads of Rally de Portugal. Winning the event by 28.3 seconds, the result sees him move to within two points of the FIA World Rally Championship lead.
Based close to Porto on the west coast of Portugal, Rally de Portugal was the first gravel event of the season, and the first time Elfyn was to use Pirelli’s loose surface tyre on his Toyota Yaris WRC rally car.
His gravel challenge started strong, even though colder weather conditions meant he had to use a mixture of soft and hard tyres to find the maximum grip on the slippery mountain roads.
Running third on the road also meant an element of road sweeping, with the cars coming behind benefitting from a cleaner surface and faster conditions.
The first day also saw a full leg of action, with competitors having to tackle eight stages and over 120km of action without the safety and assistance of a mid-day service halt.
Elfyn racked up a series of solid times, especially on the second pass when conditions were cleaner, but acknowledged that a few improvements could be made to help boost his confidence in some sections. Despite that, he moved up from fifth to hold second overnight, just six seconds off the lead.
Day two was one of consistency. Again, using mixed tyre compounds for most of the day, he battled through and set strong times on the event’s longest stage, the 38km run through Amarante.
However, leader Ott Tanak succumbed to mechanical problems on the penultimate test. That elevated Elfyn to the top spot and he held a slender overnight lead of just 10.7 seconds going into the final day’s action.
He doubled that margin on the opening stage on Sunday and cruised to victory over the final five stages, including the iconic Fafe test which was lined with tens of thousands of fans.
With just a short 10-day break, the championship resumes in Sardinia for round four on 3 June.
Elfyn Evans said: “It was great to take the victory and it comes at a really good time for the championship. We weren’t the outright fastest all weekend, but we did deliver a consistent performance and made no mistakes.
“We pushed hard to try and build a gap and then it was just a case of maintaining it. It was a tough weekend but a pretty decent result in the end.”
Next year’s WRC will reach the highest levels of sustainability with cars powered by hybrid technology for the first time and fossil-free, 100% sustainable fuel being introduced.