Elfyn Evans led WRC 2 after Friday’s opening leg of the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse following an intriguing battle with Jan Kopecky.
Evans, who leads the series in a Ford Fiesta R5, headed the Czech champion by 15.7sec after almost 160km of bumpy and twisty mountain speed tests near the Mediterranean island capital of Ajaccio.
The Welshman built a 17.9sec advantage in the opening speed test before Kopecký hit back to win the next two stages in a Skoda Fabia R5 and cut the deficit to 11.8sec. Evans ended the day with a second stage victory to leave the battle tightly poised with two days remaining.
The heat made it imperative to look after tyres and brakes in the long and demanding stages to prevent them overheating, and neither suffered major problems as temperatures touched 26˚C.
Kevin Abbring was third fastest on all four stages to end 1min 02.5sec off the lead in the first competitive outing for Hyundai’s i20 R5. The Dutchman was 20.7sec clear of Yoann Bonato’s DS 3 R5, with Jose Suarez and Julien Maurin completing the top six.
Suarez overcame a final stage spin while Maurin was more fortunate to survive a high-speed fifth gear spin in the previous test. Problems with the clutch and alternator cost Quentin Gilbert valuable time and the Frenchman ended a disappointed seventh.
Retirements included an exhausted Pierre-Louis Loubet, who went out after SS2 with broken power steering, and Poland’s Hubert Ptaszek who stopped in the same test.