Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt are on the brink of making history – continuing to lead their home event with a 53.1 second advantage over team mates Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia.
With the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB stages offering up another thrilling day of competition, the team are on the verge of a dream result on home soil.
But with 41.17 challenging kilometres left to contest, nothing can be taken for granted and every team member must play their part to make that dream a reality.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been another thrilling day out on the stages which just goes to underline how exciting this season has been. It’s great to see, and it’s great to see our guys leading the way.
“Elfyn has had another fantastic day and really dominated his home stages. We knew this event would be good for him, and he certainly deserves the victory this weekend.
“We lost a little bit of pace with Sébastien and Ott which we can’t quite pin-point at the moment, but Sébastien did a fantastic job through the night stages. His performance through the last stage with only three brake discs was incredible and just goes to show that he and Julien are as good a mechanics as they are driver and co-driver!
“It’s all looking good at the moment, but I’ve been in this game long enough to know that it’s never over until it’s over. There are still five very challenging stages to go, and we need to keep that focus if we want to get the job done.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt are on the brink of a momentous result. Dominating his home event, the Welshman leads the way with a 53.1 second advantage and is in with a chance of taking his maiden victory as well as the first victory for a Welsh driver on the British round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Contested over stages close to his hometown of Dolgellau, Evans was the man to beat – winning six of the day’s nine stages. Delivering a highly intelligent and controlled drive at the head of the field, he pushed when confident and preserved his speed when the occasion called for it.
As thick fog hit the first of the night stages, the Welshman might have lost 27.3 seconds to the fastest time, but actually increased his lead at the head of the standings – indicative of a man focused on the ultimate goal.
With just 41.17 competitive kilometres left to contest, all eyes will be on Wales’ most successful WRC driver as he looks to rewrite the history books.
SS9: 1st SS10: 1st
SS12: 2nd (+2.7)
SS14: 9th (+1.6)
SS15: 7th (+27.3)
Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
“It’s been a really good day for us and a really enjoyable one as well. I’ve always enjoyed these stages but I have to say that I was glad to get through those night stages!
“They really were tough. With the fog on Aberhirnant [SS15] you couldn’t even see the road in front of you so it was very, very challenging. But we made it through and actually managed to increase our lead.
“That’s given us a good cushion for tomorrow and there aren’t so many kilometres left, but they’re not easy. There are some very tricky stages coming up with a lot of big breaking areas into not a lot of run off and Gwydir [SS19] is massively technical and not been in use since 2013. There’s plenty in there tomorrow, so we need to keep focused and keep at it.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia can never be discounted, and the Frenchmen proved that with a fantastic drive under the cover of darkness this evening.
Driving with the bigger picture in mind, Ogier delivered a tactical drive through the day stages before coming into his own when the conditions became even more demanding.
Picking up a puncture through a fog-plagued first night stage, the Frenchman still set the fourth fastest time. But his most impressive performance came through the following speed test.
With the same impact that caused the puncture damaging the front-left brake disc, Ogier was forced to drive the final stage without it. Delivering one of the drives of the year, he lost a mere 3.3 seconds to Evans’ fastest time to hold second place at the end of the day.
Locked in an intense battle for the final podium positions, the drivers’ title could also be on the cards – Ogier able to score six less than Tänak and seven less than Neuville the clinch the crown on his team’s home event.
SS8: 6th (+6.2)
SS9: 8th (+9.8) SS10: 12th (+5.8)
SS11: 6th (+8.2)
SS12: 6th (+5.8)
SS12: 3rd (+5.3)
SS14: 8th (+1.3)
SS15: 4th (+12.2)
SS16: 5th (+3.3)
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“It’s been a tricky day and we’ve been lacking some pace compared to yesterday. We need to understand why that was, but I’m just happy to be here after this evening’s night stages!
“When you drive in conditions as challenging as the ones we faced tonight, there is no way of making it risk free. Do that and you can easily lose a minute or more. The visibility really was terrible at times, but we just decided to go for it.
“It was so close between second and fifth that I had to try and it was working pretty well up until the last kilometre when I didn’t see an almost none existent corner. We hit the bank in the fog, damaged the front-left wheel, lost the brakes and honestly thought it would be difficult to finish the day.
“Without the brakes it would have been un-driveable but we managed to close the damaged system and carry on with only three brakes. Somehow, it was still possible to drive and we didn’t lose too much time.
“With only small gaps between a lot of drivers, and 40 kilometres left to complete, we’ll have to keep pushing if we want to stay on the podium.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja may have fallen from second to sixth through today’s competitive action, but the Estonians remain a mere 12.5 seconds adrift of the top-three.
Despite missing the same speed he showed yesterday, Tänak maintained his podium position throughout the day.
But when he encountered the worst of the fog through the first night stage, he dropped half a minute to find the roles reversed – he and Järveoja now having to turn hunter in their pursuit of some Wales Rally GB silver wear.
SS8: 4th (+5.4)
SS9: 4th (+6.1) SS10: 8th (+3.7)
SS11: 8th (+10.7)
SS12: 8th (+6.2)
SS12: 5th (+7.9)
SS14: 3rd (+0.8)
SS15: 8th (+31.4)
SS16: 3rd (+0.9)
Ott Tänak (6th) said:
“It has been a long, tricky day, but also a typical Wales Rally GB day. There was just one really foggy stage where we lost a lot of time. For sure it’s disappointing, but it’s done now and that’s how it is. The gaps behind Elfyn aren’t too big so let’s see what we can do tomorrow. Hopefully we can show more pace than today and be able to fight. It will be an interesting day for sure.”
1. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:32:39.2
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +53.1
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +53.6
4. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +57.7
5. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ander Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:03.6
6. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:06.1
7. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:27.6
8. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2:04.0
9. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:41.0
10. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +3:35.8