WRC - Corsica: Elfyn Evans in the lead after shortened Day 1
Elfyn Evans, the young Welsh driver in M-Sport’s Fiesta RS WRC, surprised everybody, even himself, with the fastest time at third special stage of the first Day at Corsican round of World Rally Championship. Evans is the overnight leader after Day 1, ahead of Hyundai’s Kevin Abbring (one more surprise) and Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala.
It was a very long day at Corsica, but with only two special stages held. The longest one was cancelled because of terrible road conditions after the rain had been falling all night. Floods were not only on the roads prepared for rallying but also caused lots of problems to Corsican population. However, weather reports for tomorrow promise better weather.
First special stage Plage du Liamone – Sarrola-Carcopino was 29 km long and two drivers set the equal fastest time – Sebastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) and Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS WRC). Latvala was third with a 5.8-second gap, ahead of Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20 WRC) and Mads Ostberg (Citroen DS3 WRC). Evans and Abbring were sixth and seventh respectively, ahead of 8th placed Kris Meeke (Citroen). Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen) and Stephane Sarrazin (Ford) rounded the Top 10 after SS1.
Torrential overnight rain ensured tricky conditions and although the weather cleared in time for the start, ‘caution’ was the most-used word from the leading drivers. Most of them only wanted to finish safely, but some of them didn’t succeed. Thierry Neuville broke the rear suspension of his Hyundai early in the stage, after hitting the bridge, so he had to retire.
Second stage Casamozza – Ponte Leccia was cancelled because it was impossible to securely get there and impossible to drive through the stage. Rally itinerary lost not just 43 km of today’s stage but double, because the same stage was planned to be repeated tomorrow. So tomorrow, the drivers will have only two stages again.
In third special stage Francardo – Sermano, the conditions were worse than at morning’s stage, but the rain, mud and rocks are normal problems in rallying, so nobody was thinking about cancellation. Sebastien Ogier started first and ran well, until the 26km mark. His Polo suffered a left rear tire puncture, so he stopped to change a tire and lost about 90 seconds. At the end, he finished 13th in the stage, with a 89-second gap behind Evans, so if he hadn’t had a puncture he would have probably been a winner of the stage.
A new problem struck Ogier on the way from service to parc ferme. His car stopped because of gearshift problem, so he didn’t finished the Leg 1 and received a 10-minute penalty. Mechanics will repair the problem and Ogier will start tomorrow under Rally2 rules, but with a big gap behind leader.
Stage winner was Elfyn Evans, was 10 seconds faster than Kevin Abbring. Two privateers with Fiestas, Stephane Sarrazin and Bryan Bouffier, finished third and fourth respectively. Volkswagen drivers Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala were fifth and sixth.
In overall classification after SS3 Evans and Abbring took the leading places, with 18.7s difference between them. Third placed Latvala is 22.9s behind Evans. The following five drivers are inside the 10-second gap – Ostberg, Kubica, Sarrazin, Mikkelsen and Meeke. Bouffier are ninth and Ogier rounded the Top 10 after SS3.
In WRC2 classification Craig Breen (Peugeot 208 T16) won at SS3 and took the overall lead, with just 3.4s ahead of Julien Maurin (Ford Fiesta RRC) and 10.2s ahead of Esapekka Lappi (Škoda Fabia R5). Pontus Tidemand (Škoda), who was fastest in the morning’s stage, retired at SS3 with damaged suspension.
Photos: wrc.com, Michelin