FIA World Rally Championship title favourite Elfyn Evans has welcomed Sébastien Ogier’s decision to remain with Toyota Gazoo Racing in 2021.
While Evans and Ogier go head-to-head for the drivers’ crown at next week’s ACI Rally Monza (3 – 6 December), the pair have forged a friendship and great working relationship over three seasons together at Toyota and M-Sport Ford.
“Sébastien’s a joy to work with,” said Evans, “and he’s a really fair team-mate. We have a team which works really well together and that’s all you can ask for. We all get treated the same and we’re all working to make a fantastic car – which is what we’ve got right now.
“I’m more than happy that Séb’s staying and that we’re going to be working together next year.”
Ogier put pen to paper on a new one-year Toyota contract on 20 November after a U-turn on his announcement that he would retire from the WRC at the end of 2020. The impact of Covid-19, which has truncated this year’s campaign, prompted Ogier to rethink his plans.
Evans dismissed talk of who would take number one status at Toyota should he clinch the 2020 title over the six-time winner in Italy.
“That doesn’t interest me,” he said. “Like I said, I’m just happy to be in a team which works well together.”
Fighting your team-mate for rallying’s greatest prize next week will put something of a strain on the relationship, however.
“It is,” Evans conceded, “a difficult situation when you’re fighting against one of your closest allies. We haven’t talked so much about next week, we’ve both been busy just getting on with our preparation. There has to be some sort of line about how much I can lean on him when we’re fighting for the same championship.”
With six titles to his name already, Ogier started this year as favourite to lead Toyota’s challenge for a second consecutive drivers’ title. But technical director Tom Fowler said Evans’ pace in his first year at Toyota was no surprise to anybody in the squad.
“We checked very carefully about which drivers were performing on which rallies and why they weren’t performing on other ones,” said Fowler. “Elfyn’s pace is no surprise to us.
“If you analyse Elfyn from the last couple of years before he joined us, you could see that this was coming. He was ready for this move. He’s a very hard-working driver who’s absolutely worthy of the position he’s in now.”
Full coverage from ACI Rally Monza will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.