Courtesy of WRC Media Service Team
Welshman grabs narrow lead over Toyota team-mate Ogier.
The Toyota Yaris debutants swapped the lead on three occasions before Evans ended with a 4.9sec advantage over Ogier, with Thierry Neuville hot on their heels in his Hyundai i20.
won three of the day’s four speed tests and is only 1.5sec further
back, leaving this opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship
poised on a knife-edge ahead of tomorrow’s closing leg in the mountains
Studded winter tyres were essential for this
morning’s two special stages which contained lengthy sections of snow
and ice. Overnight leader Ogier stretched his advantage in the first,
before Evans struck back to lead at the mid-leg service.
temperatures ensured drier afternoon conditions when the two stages
were repeated. The pair were tied after the first, with Ogier ahead on a
tiebreak, before Evans fought back to snatch the lead for the third
time in the rally.
The Welshman admitted he had a close escape after flirting with a ditch in the final stage.
the last corner of ice on the stage I decided to be a little optimistic
with the throttle and off she went. I definitely used my lucky card for
the weekend – it was a good job there was nothing in the ditch,” he
Ogier admitted a safety-first approach cost the lead. “I
was a bit cautious in the last stage and I lost too much, but the gap
is still very close and it’s a simple reset for tomorrow. We still have
the chance to win,” he said.
Neuville was happier with the
last-minute information provided by his safety note crew, which drives
the stages a couple of hours before competitors to provide condition
“We’re still in the fight for the win which is
positive and we’re pleased with the performance today. We’ve had
improvements in the corrections to our ice notes and that provided us
with more confidence during the day,” said the Belgian.
was fourth in another i20, more than two minutes further back, after
swiping a bank this morning and spinning this afternoon. His errors
allowed Esapekka Lappi to close to within 14.1sec in his Ford Fiesta.
Kalle Rovanperä was an untroubled sixth in another Yaris, ahead of Takamoto Katsuta who
spun this morning. WRC 3 leader Eric Camilli was eighth, ahead of WRC 2 frontrunner Mads Østberg and Nicolas Ciamin.
finale is based in the Alpes-Maritimes mountains above Monaco. It
features two passes of two stages, covering 63.54km, and includes the
legendary crossing of the Col Turini. The afternoon finish takes place
against the backdrop of Monaco’s famous harbour.
Leading positions after Saturday
1. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota Yaris 2hr 28min 35.1sec
2. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRAToyota Yaris +4.9sec
3. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 +6.4sec
4. S Loeb / D Elena FRA Hyundai i20 +2min 24.3sec
5. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Ford Fiesta +2min 38.4sec
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