M-Sport Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson says Elfyn Evans' Rally Italy performance fully vindicated the decision to give the Welshman an abrupt World Rally Car elevation.
WRC Academy champion Evans, who is competing in WRC 2 this year, stood in for the unavailable Nasser Al-Attiyah in Sardinia.
The original intention had been for Evans to use his usual RRC spec Ford, but only one element of the entry could be changed at that late stage, so Evans drove Al-Attiyah's WRC Ford with the Qatari's co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini.
Evans finished a surprise sixth overall, winning a late battle with WRC regular Michal Kosciuzsko by just 0.6 second.
"We certainly made the right decision by putting him in the car," said Wilson. "Elfyn's performance was outstanding. This was always going to be a difficult event for him – his first time in the WRC car, his first time at Rally Italia and his first time with Giovanni – but he mastered the challenge brilliantly. He was constantly improving and I think this experience will make him all the more competitive when he returns to WRC 2 in Finland."
Evans agreed that the experience had made him a better driver.
"I've learned so much about how to get the most out of the car," he said. "It's definitely improved my skills as a driver and provided me with more knowledge and experience than I could have ever hoped for. It's brilliant."