M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen have completed a tough opening day at Chile’s inaugural FIA World Rally Championship event – currently holding seventh and ninth places respectively.
Evans got off to a strong start – showing the potential of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC in the slippery conditions with the third fastest time through the opening speed test.
Becoming locked in an intense battle with fellow Brit Kris Meeke, the pairing were never separated by more than a handful of seconds and it looked as though the Welshman would have the better of the Northern Irishman heading into the afternoon loop – two seconds up on the splits through the second pass of El Puma (SS4).
But Evans missed out on the penultimate stage with a lack of confidence in the pacenotes he made in thick fog during the pre-event reconnaissance. Falling adrift of Meeke, Evans also fell behind nine-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb – what could have been fifth place becoming seventh at the end of the day.
Suninen was also locked in an intense battle for position, and had the better of Andreas Mikkelsen through the penultimate stage – securing eighth place and a more favourable road position for tomorrow’s loose stages before the Norwegian took back the position in the closing Super Special.
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It’s been a challenging day with a lot of drivers commenting that they were struggling for confidence in the difficult conditions. Elfyn made a good start with the third fastest time on the opening stage, and it’s disappointing to end the day in this position – we could have done a lot better. Running early on the road won’t be easy with the loose gravel tomorrow, but this is rallying and it’s never over until it’s over. We’ll keep going, keep pushing, look to remain positive, and see what we can do.”
Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“We had a pretty good run through most of the stages, but it just didn’t quite click with the rhythm on the second one this afternoon [SS5]. We recced that stage in the fog so we were expecting to lose a bit, but it was obviously really disappointing to give away as much as we did. The stages are a bit wider and a bit more flowing tomorrow. We’re not going to have the best road position, but we’ll give it our all and see what we can do.”
Teemu Suninen (9th) said:
“It’s good to get all the kilometres and get the experience for the future, but I didn’t come here to fight for eighth place and it would have been nice to have had a bit more pace. We just need to do a good job tomorrow, try to improve, and try to be faster than those around us with a similar road position.”
1. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:24:12.8
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Citroen C3 WRC) +22.4
3. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +28.8
4. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +29.5
5. Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +46.5
6. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +48.7
7. Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:01.4
8. Andreas Mikkelsen / Andreas Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2:08.1
9. Teemu Suninen / Marko Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:09.1
10. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferme (Citroen C3 WRC) +2:18.3