Home hero Elfyn Evans set a stunning pace to win Saturday morning’s opening speed test at Wales Rally GB.
Stage info: SS11
Dyfi 1, 25.86km
Dyfi, in the shadow of the Snowdonia mountains, is a GB classic. This year’s version is borrowed from 2017 and driven in the opposite direction to last year. It rises and falls on a good surface with plenty of fast and challenging corners. The entire stage is blisteringly quick and smooth, although there is a 4km section in the middle which is more technical. The longest stage of the rally.
Evans, who grew up a handful of kilometres from the 25.86km Dyfi test, delighted his fans by charging to quickest time in his Ford Fiesta at the start of a day in which the M-Sport Ford driver will hope to regain time lost yesterday.
“We just have to focus stage by stage and do the best we can on each one. The grip was a bit changeable in here, unlike yesterday where you could read the grip a little bit more. It all looks the same this morning but it’s actually quite changeable,” explained Evans.
He remained eighth but closed to within 1.3sec of team-mate Teemu Suninen, who was more than 13sec slower after a lacklustre start to the day.
Rally leader Ott Tänak was second fastest, 1.9sec slower than Evans, to extend his advantage to 5.8sec over Sébastien Ogier. “Generally the grip was quite OK. We couldn’t go to the limit but the car feels good,” said the Toyota Yaris driver.
Ogier believed he was not as ‘sharp’ as he would have liked in his Citroën C3 – possibly something to do with the 05.40 restart! However, he stretched the gap over former leader Kris Meeke to 2.8sec as the Ulsterman slipped into the clutches of Thierry Neuville.
“I probably didn’t explore the grip enough, there was more of it than I expected. We have to try everything, Thierry is driving a Hyundai and we want to finish in front so we have work to do,” said Meeke, who was only seventh fastest.
Meeke and Neuville, who was third in the stage, were tied for third overall although the Belgian was not totally happy with his performance in his Hyundai i20.
“I struggled in the beginning and I was too careful in the first part of the stage before I got the feeling. It was a long day yesterday and a short night, but I should have done better,” he said.