SS2-4: Evans leads in GB
Home hero Elfyn Evans lived up to pre-event predictions to lead Dayinsure Wales Rally GB after winning two of Friday morning’s three forest speed tests.
Stage info: SS2-4
SS2: Myherin 1, 20.28km
A Rally GB classic kicks off the forest action – but with a difference as a tree disease has ruled out the open moorland roads. It is fast and smooth from the start with enticing corners early on. Two new sections are introduced in the second half, the stage ending with a series of fast open bends overlooking a valley before a downhill finale to the finish.
SS3: Sweet Lamb 1, 4.24km
Sweet Lamb is a spectator magnet as fans pack the hillsides in the bowl for uninterrupted views across almost 2km of the stage. It’s all downhill from the start, via a double hairpin, into the arena. Two jumps and a water splash provide great entertainment before the road climbs away over the moors to the finish. It’s identical to 2016 and features the section where Jari-Matti Latvala crashed 12 months earlier.
SS4: Hafren 1, 35.14km
Just a 2.8km liaison section divides Sweet Lamb from Hafren, the longest test of the rally and driven in the same format as 2016. It’s fast throughout on a good surface, although there are muddy sections and rougher parts where the road has been regraded. The final part is spectacular, blasting out of the forest and descending amid stunning mountain views.
Fellow drivers tipped the Welshman to set the early pace in his Ford Fiesta and Evans did not disappoint. He set fastest time in the opening Myherin special stage and closed the loop with best time in the long Hafren test.
Evans was aided by a new range of DMACK tyres developed specifically for wet and muddy gravel roads and led Ott Tänak by 6.7sec. Conditions were incredibly slippery and constantly changing grip ensured drivers struggled for confidence and rhythm.
“Our tyres are working well but I’m still not finding it easy,” said Evans. “I’m trying to be clean and attack when I can. I don’t want to overdrive so it’s a very difficult balance.”
Tänak won the short Sweet Lamb but was unhappy with the morning. “The grip was better in the last stage than the previous two but I’m not happy with the car at all. It’s not behaving as I would like. It’s understeering too much and I’m using the handbrake too often,” he said.
Kris Meeke was 9.3sec further behind in third, the Ulsterman delighted with his pace given his low start position and resulting deteriorating road conditions.
The Citroën C3 driver had 0.4sec in hand over championship-chasing Sébastien Ogier, who admitted he was perhaps not ‘daring enough’ in the muddy sections.
Jari-Matti Latvala lacked confidence in his understeering Toyota Yaris and the Finn was fifth, with Andreas Mikkelsen completing the top six in the lead Hyundai i20.
Team-mate Thierry Neuville was a place further back, but the Belgian cut a frustrated figure. He received a 10sec road penalty last night after arriving late for the curtain-raising Tir Prince test when his i20 refused to fire up.
The cause remained unresolved but an understeer problem was cured after changing the differential mapping. “We have to be really careful to get through today because we haven’t found the problem. It’s working so we cross our fingers and continue,” he said.
Hyundai duo Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon and Toyota’s Juho Hänninen completed the leaderboard.
Mads Østberg suffered gearchange problems in Myherin, while Craig Breen dropped almost a minute after a slow front left puncture in his Citroën C3 in Hafren.
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