Elfyn Evans set the early pace at Corsica linea - Tour de Corse after a drama-filled opening speed test on Friday morning.
Stage info: SS1
Bavella 1, 17.60km
The rally kicks off on a wide fast road that resembles a hillclimb in a huge pine forest. The first uphill section takes crews to the Larone pass and includes the only narrow and twisty sector. It is followed by a quick descent before another climb leads to the finish in the Bavella pass, 1218 metres above sea level. Ten hairpins await drivers near the village.
The Welshman, driving a Ford Fiesta, stopped the clocks 2.9sec quicker than Thierry Neuville through the 17.60km Bavella speed test. Neuville’s Hyundai i20 team-mate, Dani Sordo, was a further 0.2sec back in third.
Further down the order there were problems for pre-event favourite Sébastien Ogier, Kris Meeke and Sébastien Loeb as the tough asphalt roads of the Mediterranean island lived up to their fearsome reputation.
Loeb, a four-time Corsica winner, slid wide in a left-hand corner and smashed into a kerb, damaging the rear of his i20. The Frenchman and co-driver Daniel Elena worked furiously to make repairs after the finish (below) but they dropped two minutes in the stage.
“We broke one of the suspension arms at the rear, we slid wide and hit a stone. Not a big impact but it was too much. We had the spare parts to repair so it should be OK to continue,” explained Loeb.
Meeke limped to the end with a broken front left wheel rim on his Yaris i20. “I have no idea how it happened. I was just following my notes and something caught me on the inside of a corner, completely unseen,” said the Briton, who lost 50sec.
Ogier conceded more than 10sec after spinning in a right-hand hairpin, nudging the apex with his Citroën C3 at slow speed before reversing out and continuing.
The incident came just a kilometre after the Frenchman encountered cows in the road, but Ogier refused to blame the incident for his error. Road opener Ott Tänak also came across the bovine beasts in his Yaris.
“Five cows in the middle of the road. We lost a lot of time and had to stop,” explained the Estonian, who was nevertheless fourth fastest, 3.2sec off Evans’ pace.
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