On his first event for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team, Elfyn Evans led the Monte Carlo Rally for almost half of the four day, 16 stage event – which was a truly stunning performance on an event that he had never challenged for victory on before.

Co-driven by Scott Martin, Elfyn eventually finished third, overtaken on the final four stages by both an inspired Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai) and his Toyota team-mates (and winners of the last six Montes) Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia.

The top three were in a class of their own, but there is little doubt that Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja, who had an enormous accident on Friday morning, and the M-Sport quartet of Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm and Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen, who had a disastrous opening Thursday night, will all contribute to making this a very close fight for the world title.

What’s great for British rallying is that Elfyn clearly likes his new Toyota home and has settled straight into the Yaris WRC. And for the first time in a very long time, Britain has a driver that will seriously challenge for the World Rally title.

This is what Elfyn had to say at the post Monte Carlo Rally press conference.

Elfyn, you led this rally for a long time, how do you feel now?
“Pretty mixed feeling, I must say. We started off pretty strong on Friday morning, then I found a really good feeling and stage wins came pretty easy, to be honest. It just clicked and it happened naturally. But this morning, it didn’t happen quite so naturally and this cost us a realistic chance to fight for the win. Thierry, in contrast, had very strong day. Overall, we have to take this as a positive, it’s not a bad start. This is something we can build on.”

This was your first time in a new team. How was it?
“I was wondering how it would fare when it comes to the competition – it was a bit strange. We’d done a lot of preparation, we’d done the testing, spent time in the workshop and tried to do all we could to be prepared for the recce and Shakedown. Then we have the office, but we don’t know where to sit! It was all a bit new, but it all worked well and this gave me confidence. It was a great help from the team with things like making the tyres work. We prepared well, but it was still a bit of a shock to the system.”

How much more could you have risked?
“I have been a bit cautious in some icy sections yesterday, that cost us three seconds here or there. Those details make the difference. This was a brand-new car and this is Monte-Carlo. We were just taking that little chance to go on the throttle that bit earlier, but that can change the position so early. We had the lead, but everybody has done some sort of moment, the risk was higher today and it didn’t happen quite as naturally. At that time trying to push more, I was almost guaranteed to have gone off. I have to accept that at that stage. That doesn’t mean you ever give up, but it means you can’t quite place the car exactly as you might want.”

Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin wear Stilo WRC DES Zero helmets.

Monte Carlo Rally, FIA World Rally Championship, Elfyn Evans, Toyota, Thierry Neuville, Hyundai, Sébastien Ogier, Monaco, motorsport, motor sport, cars