M-Sport’s home event at Wales Rally GB could not have got off to a better start – Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt leading a clean-sweep of the podium for the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
Muddy, tricky conditions were the order of the day with inconsistent grip levels proving difficult to read. Once again however, the Fiesta proved a force to be reckoned with – all three crews contributing to the team’s six fastest stage times and reinforcing the Fiesta’s impressive consistency.
With Evans leading the way, Ott Tänak in second, and Sébastien Ogier in third, it was the dream start to a potentially historic home event. But with 183.55 competitive kilometres left to contest, the fight is far from over with two exceptionally difficult days of rallying left waiting in the wings.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It doesn’t get much better than this. We’ve had a terrific day with great performances from all three drivers, but let’s not forget that there are two very difficult days to come.
“Once again, the Fiesta has shown great speed and we’ve proved that we can be competitive on all surfaces. To win all but one of the stages so far is fantastic.
“We all know Elfyn’s potential and knew this could be a good event for him. For sure the tyre is working well, but it’s not just down to that and he has delivered a very strong drive today.
“He’s in a good position with nothing to lose – and he can go out there tomorrow and just focus on enjoying his home stages.
“Ott and Sébastien have also delivered very strong performances but they have to keep their championship hopes in mind.
“Whatever happens, we’re in for another exciting day of competition tomorrow.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Leading the way at Wales Rally GB, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt delivered a sensational performance through the opening day of their home event.
Putting all of his experience to expert use, Evans judged the available traction to perfection and pushed home his advantage through the more challenging sections.
Mastering the ever-changing grip levels, the Welshman set three fastest stage times and holds a 24.6 second advantage at the head of the field – the first Brit to lead the event since Colin McRae in 2001 and the first Welshman since David Llewellin in 1989.
SS1: =5th (+1.1)
SS3: 6th (+1.1)
SS6: 2nd (+0.7)
SS7: 2nd (+0.8)
Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
“It feels pretty good to be in this position at the end of the day. We’ve had a solid run with no problems and no mistakes so, so far, so good.
“It’s definitely not been an easy day – especially this morning when the grip was changing so often through the stages.
“Finding the balance between pushing just enough and over-driving was pretty difficult as the grip was changing from corner to corner. We just tried to concentrate on using the traction we had as best we could, but it wasn’t easy for sure.
“Tomorrow’s stages really are fantastic and so enjoyable to drive. They’re real home territory for me so the plan is just to go out there and enjoy it.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Thanks to a string of competitive stage times, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja hold second place at Wales Rally GB and are on course to equal their best result at one of the championship’s most demanding rallies.
Despite his positive performance, the Estonian struggled to find the perfect balance through the tricky conditions. Get that right for tomorrow, and Tänak could be one to watch through the final two days of competition.
SS1: 4th (+0.6)
SS2: 4th (+4.3)
SS4: 2nd (+4.0)
SS5: 8th (+8.4)
SS6: =5th (+1.7)
SS7: 4th (+9.3)
Ott Tänak (2nd) said:
“It’s not been a bad day for us and it’s been really nice out on the stages. The sun has been shining and I think it’s the first time I’ve actually seen the Myherin stage without the fog!
“It’s still a really close battle behind Elfyn so we’ll have to wait and see what we can do. Tomorrow’s stages are completely different but they’re also really enjoyable.
“I’m sure it’s going to be another exciting day, but it will be difficult to make any big time differences. We’ll keep fighting and keep pushing as always.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Having topped the time sheets through the opening Super Special on Thursday evening, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia upped their total of consecutive kilometres in the lead of Wales Rally GB to 1,258.64.
The records kept on coming as the pairing secured their 500th stage victory on Sweet Lamb – the location of their very first stage win in 2008.
Posting two fastest stage times, Ogier currently holds third place overall – sandwiched between his two championship rivals – and will be pushing to make further history come the end of the rally.
SS2: 3rd (+4.2)
SS3: 3rd (0.2)
SS4: 6th (+14.2)
SS5: 2nd (+4.3)
SS7: 3rd (+7.6)
Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:
“I feel good at the end of the day. Some sections were quite tough and I struggled to read the grip through the first pass of Hafren. I was a bit disappointed at the end of that one, but other than that it has been a good day for us.
“I took my 500th stage win today, at exactly the same place where I took my very first stage win in 2008, so that is a nice story and it seems that I like Sweet Lamb! Actually the profile of today’s whole loop is really nice – nice flowing stages and nice corners which are really enjoyable to drive.
“So long as you can read the grip, you can have a lot of fun out there and for sure Elfyn has had a lot of fun today. We knew he could do well here and, even though the tyres are working well for him, it was still a very strong performance. No matter what tyres you have, you still have to drive the car and he deserves to be where he is tonight.
“All three championship contenders are really close now and if I want to stay in the fight I have to push. That will be the plan for tomorrow – to enjoy, to push, and to see the fight continue.”
1. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:09:20.9
2. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +24.6
3. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +26.8
4. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +37.1
5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +41.9
6. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +42.0
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ander Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +52.0
8. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:13.9
9. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:22.9
10. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:43.5