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M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt hold the Tour de Corse lead after a sensational performance behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

M-Sport came to the eleventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship keen to spring a surprise or two and they have certainly done that today – Evans leading the way with an 18.7 second advantage over his nearest rival.
Evans embarked on the rally of 10,000 corners with no prior experience of the event’s unique roads, but he wasn’t going to let that hold him back during what has been a fantastic week for Welsh sport on the international stage.

Setting the sixth fastest time through the opening speed test (‘Plage du Liamone – Sarrola-Carcopino’), a strong start left him poised to mount a challenge for the podium positions.

With ‘Casamozza – Ponte Leccia 1’ cancelled due to heavy rain fall, just one stage remained for him to mount said challenge and he did so in superb style.

The narrow roads through the final speed test (SS3, ‘Francardo – Sermano’) were extremely challenging and took no prisoners, but Evans thrived and took it all in his stride.

Finding his rhythm, the Welshman showed his true potential and set the fastest time by a considerable margin – some 30 seconds faster than his fellow manufacturer competitors.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC however, Ott Tänak struggled in the treacherous conditions.

He and co-driver Raigo Mõlder currently hold 11th position but they’ll be looking to climb into the top-ten as the event continues over the weekend.

Besides Evans’ rally-leading performance, M-Sport cars were performing to a high standard throughout the field.

Thanks to Robert Kubica’s fastest time on SS1, the new-evolution Fiesta RS WRC claimed all of the stage victories on offer and three out of the top-four times through SS3 were delivered by Fiesta drivers – Evans first, Stéphane Sarrazin third and Bryan Bouffier fourth.

Also in the WRC 2 category, Julien Maurin’s Ford Fiesta RRC sits in second place – just 3.4 seconds adrift of the lead.

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

“It’s a great feeling to be leading my first rally – albeit a bit surprising! When we got to the [SS3] stage end I said to Dan [Barritt, co-driver] that we’d not had a good run but we were very clean and tidy and didn’t waste any time so that obviously worked well for us.

“The information we had from the gravel crew was really consistent with what we actually saw on the stage itself so a big thanks to them because I’m sure that went some way to setting the time we did.

“The guys behind will be pushing hard tomorrow, but with the Welsh rugby team doing such a fantastic job last night I guess the pressure is on me to continue that trend!”

Ott Tänak (11th) said:

“It’s been a really tough day – there is so much water and gravel on the road so it’s really difficult to find a good rhythm.

“It’s certainly possible to go fast as Elfyn [Evans] has shown with some pretty impressive style this afternoon, but I just don’t have the confidence to do that at the moment.

“Hopefully the conditions will improve over the weekend and we can see what we can do. We just have to be brave and push as hard as we can.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“This has been one of the most historic days for the M-Sport World Rally Team. For everyone to witness Elfyn [Evans] pull off such an impressive performance on the final stage [of the day, SS3] was a massive boost – proving that we have all the tools at our disposal to be leading a world rally championship event.

“We all know how much potential Elfyn has and he has proven that today. His time on the last stage was nothing short of phenomenal and he thoroughly deserves the lead he holds this evening. He’s done Wales proud, and he’s done the team extremely proud.

“It was also fantastic to see such high standards of performance from other Fiesta drivers throughout the field. Robert’s [Kubica] fastest time on SS1 meant that the new-evolution Fiesta claimed every stage victory on offer and we also saw some impressive times from Stéphane [Sarrazin], Bryan [Bouffier] and Julien [Maurin] who is extremely close to the lead in WRC 2.”