Evans explains Toyota's WRC Rally Chile tyre strategy mistake

World Rally Championship title contender Elfyn Evans says his Toyota team's underestimation of the Rally Chile conditions led to ”quite a mistake” on tyre strategy during Saturday morning's loop.

Evans and his team-mates Kalle Rovanpera and Takamoto Katsuta all opted to take only soft tyres for the loop held on roads that were much more abrasive than those navigated on Friday.

While Evans briefly managed to overhaul Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen to claim second overall and Rovanpera climbed to fourth after winning stage seven, their tyre strategy backfired on stage nine.

Towards the end of the morning’s final test, the longest of the rally at 28.72km, all three Toyotas hit trouble as their tyres began to delaminate and puncture.

Evans came the closest to pulling off the bold tyre choice before losing his rear tyres with 10 kilometres remaining, with his loss of 56.2s dropping the Welshman from second to fourth.

Now 1m16.8s behind leader Ott Tanak, he is just one place ahead of title rival Rovanpera, whom he needs to beat to maximise his world championship hopes. Rovanpera, who shipped 46.7s in the same stage, holds a 33-point advantage with this round and visits to Central Europe and Japan remaining.

Reflecting on a rare bad tyre call, Evans said: “Clearly it was not the correct choice to begin with.

“In the last stage I felt like I was going really slowly to get to the end, but clearly not slow enough.

“It is difficult when you don’t have any splits in the car so you have to use your judgement. Maybe a much more conservative approach in the last one would have seen us lose a lot less time, but it is hard to call.

“[The tyre decision] is quite a mistake, that’s true. I think we just underestimated the rate of wear.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“We knew it was more abrasive and, looking back now, it was a stupid choice and there is no hiding from that fact.”

Rovanpera, who has a slim chance of sealing the title this weekend, added: “We were way too optimistic as all our cars taking soft tyres didn’t work out.

“At the end of the first stage it was quite clear when we saw the tyres that the tyre wear was much more on the first one than we expected. We were only expecting to have a big tyre choice on the last one, but definitely the wear was more.”

Toyota’s tyre call, coupled with M-Sport and Hyundai drivers opting to take hard tyres, resulted in a significant shake up of the rally leaderboard.

Tanak has moved into a 47.8s lead over Suninen after completing the loop’s final stage as the only driver running four hard tyres.

The Estonian however admitted that tyre strategy this weekend has been a “guessing game”, given teams have limited experience of Chile’s roads having only previously visited the nation in 2019.

“We definitely had a good tyre choice,” said Tanak, before adding: “I wouldn’t say it was good, but the other guys just did a bad tyre choice.

“The Hyundais were covered for all situations but Elfyn, Taka and Kalle - they were a bit too brave.

“Elfyn was quite close to getting it done, but I understand he just missed by 10 kilometres.

“You are just guessing [the tyre choice] and nobody knows. We have never done these stages and have never been here in these temperatures, so we don't know how the road will evolve, so it is just a guessing game.”

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