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Tom Howard

Evans explains why he lost second at WRC Rally Mexico

Evans came embroiled in an intense battle for second with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville that went right down to the wire at the first gravel round of the season.

The Welshman inherited second on Saturday morning following Esapekka Lappi's crash from the lead, but held only a 11.6s margin over Neuville in third.

A charging Neuville cut the deficit to 4.3s heading into Sunday’s final four stages. Evans managed to stem the time loss by winning stage 21 by 1.7s from Neuville, but in doing so he damaged the suspension of his GR Yaris.

Evans was forced to make roadside repairs to a bent suspension arm using whatever he had available in the car. However, the fix wasn’t enough to allow the two-time WRC runner-up to push to the maximum, and ultimately lost second by 0.4s to Neuville on the final stage.

Although disappointed to lose out in the fight for second, Evans was relieved to be back on the podium for the first time since Rally Belgium last August.

A puncture in this year’s Monte Carlo season-opener robbed him of a likely podium, while all three Toyotas struggled for pace in Sweden.

“I think overall it has been a solid weekend, I think we had the speed to be second to be honest, but unfortunately I didn’t quite execute a few things,” said Evans, who sits fifth, 12 points behind championship leader Ogier.

Podium: Winners Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, second place Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1, third place Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 (Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images)

“The positive thing is I’m back on the podium for a first time in a while, and it has felt like a really long time, so I’m happy for that and I’m happy with the feeling in the car on gravel.

“I’m a bit disappointed of course. It was quite difficult to fight at the front with the damaged suspension arm and we had to look after this arm as we didn’t want to return with zero points. I have mixed emotions.”

After witnessing Evans attempt an unlikely repair on the suspension arm, Neuville applauded the Welshman’s bravery for continuing to fight with a wounded car.

“When I saw that he was still flat out, I said that this guy really has big balls,” said Neuville. "The arm was broken and he fixed it with some masking and some tie wraps. I found out at the end that he wasn’t so confident.

“But, if I had been in the same position, you need to play with your luck and he did it and it worked well, and he took the fight until the end.”

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