Evans arrives in Portugal sharing the championship lead with his part-time Toyota team-mate Sebastien Ogier after claiming an emotional first win for 18 months on Croatia’s asphalt roads last month.
The victory resulted in the Welshman leaping up the championship standings that are the closest since 2001, with five drivers covered by 11 points. However, Evans now faces the prospect of cleaning the roads in Portugal, which will reduce his chances of challenging for victory.
Last year, team-mate Kalle Rovanpera was able to buck the trend and win from first on the road, but the Finn was helped by wet weather arriving midway through the rally. While it is widely expected that this year’s event will be totally dry, Evans believes a victory is still possible.
The Toyota driver started the rally on the front foot by topping the times in today’s shakedown, edging Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi by 0.1s.
“I wouldn’t say victory is impossible, for sure a dry gravel rally is always very difficult,” Evans, who won the 2021 edition of the rally, told Motorsport.com.
“We have to be focussed on doing a good job and you never know what can happen. Last year on Friday there were a lot of casualties but of course Kalle put himself in a great position to fight on Saturday and do something similar.
“If we can be in the mix on Friday night then you can be in the mix on Saturday and of course we know how critical these Fridays are to be in the mix.
“Every rally is a good chance to bag good points but of course we seem to have gone okay in the past. It is just about seeing how things go and managing the road position.
When asked about the fear of not scoring well given how tight the championship is, he replied: “You have to put that [fear] to the back of your mind as it is so early in the season. You have to concentrate on doing the best job you can. It is far too early to be thinking about conservatively scoring points.”
Neuville feeling pressure to avenge Croatia crash
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville has admitted he is feeling under pressure to perform in Portugal after crashing from the lead in Croatia last month.
The Belgian sits fifth in the championship standings, 11 points shy of Evans after missing out on recording a first victory for Hyundai last time out.
“I think we have a bit more pressure this weekend than our rivals due to the fact that we missed…