Monte Carlo Rally WRC: Evans seizes Friday lead after Tanak's crash

Graham Keilloh
Evans seizes lead after Tanak crashes out

Toyota debutant Elfyn Evans seized the Monte Carlo Rally lead from Hyundai's Thierry Neuville after dominating Friday morning's loop of stages, while reigning World Rally Champion Ott Tanak crashed out.

Evans topped all three of the morning's stages in his Yaris to establish an advantage of 8.9 seconds over Neuville.

Evans took the overall lead from the 2019 WRC runner-up on the day's second stage, having on the opening Curbans - Venterol test slashed Neuville's overnight lead to just 5.4s, and jumped to second place overall, with a time 20s quicker than Neuville's.

Neuville had to restart during the stage at an icy left-hander, and said he struggled with his tyres in the slippery conditions

Evans was then 8.8s quicker than Neuville on the 12.8-mile Saint-Clement-sur-Durance - Freissinieres stage, which gave him a 3.4s lead, and he completed his dominance of the morning loop by extending his edge over second-placed Neuville with another fastest time on the Bayons - Breziers SS5.

Six-time WRC Monte Carlo Rally winner Sebastien Ogier, also making his Toyota debut, closed in on Neuville too and sits third overall, 9.7s off team-mate Evans and less than a second behind Neuville. Ogier said he was still learning the car, particularly over bumps.

Neuville's overnight advantage after the opening pair of Thursday-night stages had been 19.1s over Ogier and 25.4s over Evans.

Tanak crashed out spectacularly on his Hyundai debut, leaving the road at high speed exiting a right-left kink at around the halfway mark of the morning's second stage. His i20 Coupe WRC then fell down a drop and entered a lengthy barrel roll.

Both Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja looked unharmed as they exited the car unaided.

Tanak was fourth overall at the time, 10.3s behind then-leader Neuville.

Tanak also had a brief SS3 spin at the same point at which Neuville had his problem, while M-Sport's Gus Greensmith was stranded on the stage after his own spin at the treacherous turn - ending up with the rear of his Fiesta stuck in a ditch.

Seven-time Monte Carlo Rally winner Sebastien Loeb ended the morning fourth overall, 48.4s off the top having been 51s down overnight.

He complained throughout of dirt pulled onto the road from cars ahead, though he managed to set the second-fastest time on the opening stage, just 2.1s off Evans's pace.

Greensmith's off, combined with Teemu Suninen's woes on Thursday, have left Esapekka Lappi as the only serious M-Sport contender on his debut with the team.

He ended the morning fifth, a minute and a half off the top and bemoaning his lack of pace.

He is 24.6s clear of Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera in sixth, while Rovanpera's team-mate Takamoto Katsuta climbed to seventh overall across the morning but is over two minutes shy of Rovanpera.

Eric Camilli in his Citroen C3 is eighth and the first of the R5 'WRC3' runners. WRC2 leader Ole Christian Veiby in his Hyundai and WRC3's Nicolas Ciamin in his Citroen compete the top 10.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Stephane Sarrazin in his Hyundai had been challenging Camilli for the WRC3 lead but lost over two minutes after stopping on the morning's final stage.

Leading positions after SS5

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 1h04m54.9s
2 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 8.9s
3 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 9.7s
4 Sebastien Loeb, D.Elena Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 48.4s
5 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 1m29.9s
6 Kalle Rovanpera, J.Halttunen Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 1m54.5s
7 Takamoto Katsuta, D.Barritt Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 4m10.8s
8 Eric Camilli, F-X.Buresi Eric Camilli Citroen 4m42.8s
9 Ole-Christian Veiby, J.Andersson Hyundai Motorsport N Hyundai 5m09.9s
10 Nicolas Ciamin, Y.Roche Nicolas Ciamin Citroen 5m48.7s

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