Elfin Evans has mastered the tough starting stage of the Portugal FIA Rally World Rally Championship to lead his teammate Toyota Gazoo Racing Calais Ravanpera on Friday night.
A clear fight in the morning was a matter of survival in the afternoon as heat, dust and rocky roads took serious losses at the first gravel rally of the 2022 season, including the early exit of two WRC grandmasters, Sebastien Loeb and Oger.
Evans won four of the eight special stages of the day in his GR Yaris Rally1 rally to lead Ravanper, who earned the two fastest times, 13.6 seconds after 75.6 race miles.
The low starting position of the Welshman meant that he enjoyed the advantage of better traction on roads cleared by the first starting roads. In contrast, the leader of the championship Ravanpera withstood the worst conditions from the first in the network.
Evans downgraded Thierry Neville from Hyundai, which led after a brief super-special stage on Thursday night on the streets of Coimbra, winning the first stage. He won the next, but was unable to stop the charged Loeb, who snatched the advantage of 0.5 seconds in the third stage of the day.
But when the nine-time WRC champion pressed his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 against a wall just 25 yards to the next stage, Evans was ahead and avoided the many dangers on deteriorating roads.
“These were pretty extreme conditions,” Evans said, pleased and relieved at the end of the stage. “Everyone was trying to pick a path and it was a lottery, but of course you have to try to go as fast as possible. You can always say you could go faster, but were you still here or not? ”
The second at the end of the day exceeded Ravanper’s hopes. “Yes, it was better than we hoped,” said the 21-year-old Finn. “We scooped a lot of dust into the car. Sometimes I really couldn’t breathe or see anything. “
Season debutant Dani Sorda is third in his Hyundai i20 N Rally1, half a minute behind second from Toyota. The Spaniard has a slight advantage of 5.2 s from Takamoto Katsuta in another GR Yaris, the Japanese driver regrets losing that amount of time with half a turn.
Second Sebastien – eight-time and reigning WRC champion Ogier – was on track to make the day great for Toyota when he brought his GR Yaris to third place, but a second afternoon puncture stopped the Frenchman on the road after he chose to have only one spare car.
Gus Greensmith of the Ford M-Sport twice tore the tire off the rim on his Puma. His progress was further stifled when dust filled the cabin, but the Briton stubbornly held on fifth, a minute away from the lead.
Greensmith’s teammate, Pierre-Louis Lube, was sixth, the French rider hoping to get into the top three for the night when he jumped the denouement on the penultimate stage.
Seventh place at the end of the stage was a bad reward for Neville, who was Evans ’closest rival until damage to the wheels on the connecting section forced him to pass the last two tests with a broken propeller shaft on his Hyundai i20 N Rally1.
Craig Breen has delayed various problems in his Puma, including a puncture and a brush with a bank. The Irishman was eighth, and teammate Ford M-Sport Adrien Furmo – ninth and disappointed Ot Tanak finished the top 10 after two punctures of his factory Hyundai.
In WRC2, the second level of the international rally, reigning champion Andreas Mickelsen finished the final stage with a 37-second lead over Hyundai i20 N Teemu Suninen, but was forced to leave his Toksport Skoda Fabia Evo due to an engine problem on the way to the final. maintenance.
“We tried everything we could, but the team said it was best to leave the car here because they wouldn’t give me time to fix it normally,” said a disappointed Mikkelsen. “Sorry because we drove smart and we had a big gap.”
Suninen inherits the lead in the WRC2 by 17.1 seconds behind Johan Rossel (Citroen C3). Oliver Solberg (Hyundai), Kaetan Kaetanovich (Skoda) and Mika Marchyk (Skoda) finish the top five.
If the first match on Friday was difficult, then Saturday will be even more difficult. Nearly half of the race’s competitive distance consists of two cycles of three speed tests in the Cabreira Mountains. But, unlike Friday, the crews have a respite in the middle of the service. For those who survive in the mountains, the day ends with a coastal street scene in Porto after 97.43 miles.
Rally WRC Portugal, the leading position after the first day, SS9
1 Elfin Evans / Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) 1 hour 25 minutes 43.3 seconds
2 Kale Ravanpera / Jon Halttunen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) +13.6 sec.
3 Dani Sorda / Candida Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) + 44.4s
4 Takamota Katsuta / Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) +49.6 s
5 Gus Greensmith / Jonas Anderson (M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1) +1 min 00.7 s
6 Pierre-Louis Lube / Lande (M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1) +1 min 15.6 s
7 Thierry Neville / Martin Wide (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) +1 min 46.4 s
8 Craig Brynn / Paul Nigel (M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1) +1 min 49.3 s
9 Adrien Fourmaux / Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1) +2 min 03.6 s
10 Ot Tanak / Martin Jarveoya (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) +3 min 38.4 s
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