Elfyn Evans’s former boss, M-Sport principal Rich Millener, reckons the WRC leader “is on another level” this year.
He worked with Evans for all the Welsh driver’s seven years with M-Sport squad before Evans moved to Toyota for 2020. And he is certain Rally Sweden winner Evans is in with a shot at this season’s WRC title.
Millener reckoned it was the stability of a long-term contract at Toyota is good for Evans, who has taken a victory and a third place from his first two WRC events with the Japanese team.
“Evans is on another level at the minute,” said Millener. “He knows he’s fast, he won pretty much every stage in Sweden. His situation at Toyota is slightly different to how he was with us. Of course, we employed him, but it was a little bit tricky year-to-year.
“We never really knew if we had the budget to keep him and now he’s got a two-year contract and his future’s safe. When you’re on a one-year contract it can be difficult to settle, but he’s gone to Toyota and he knows they want him.
“His mind-set will be: ‘They stole me from M-Sport, so they definitely want me – I’ve got a world champion in my team, I’ve got to prove myself.’ And he’s got on with it. He won some stages on the Monte and then come to Sweden and just got faster and faster and now he is in with a genuine shout of the championship because he’s so consistent.”
Millener also praised M-Sport owner Malcolm Wilson’s faith in Evans and noted Evans’ improvement in consistency and avoiding errors.
“The whole team’s done a lot for Elfyn,” added Millener. “I worked a fair bit with him during his time here. I guided him at times, times like how to speak to Malcolm in the awkward situations, that kind of thing. Malcolm and him didn’t always get each other. Malcolm had his expectations and sometimes Elfyn wasn’t completely sure what was wanted. I said to them, ‘Guys you need to connect with each other’, and it worked in the end. They both have huge respect for each other, but I think Malcolm’s absolutely correct when he talks about it taking 10 years to get from the bottom to the top.
“That’s pretty much where Elfyn’s at now after Malcolm put the work and the investment in. It’s four or five years at the very top before you can start to go consistently at the speed he’s at now. Consistency’s great, but the other thing is that Elfyn doesn’t make mistakes, hardly ever. Monte last year was a big one into the tree, but before that we can’t remember one. OK, he’s slid off the road here and there and he crashed in Mexico, but he still drove the car through the next stage.”