EVANS IN THE HUNT FOR TOUR DE CORSE VICTORY
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt continued their impressive performance on the penultimate day of the Tour de Corse – ending the day in a strong second place.
Despite having to hand control of the rally to a resurgent Jari-Matti Latvala, the Welshman is still in the hunt – on course for his best FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) result just two seconds adrift of the lead.
With yesterday’s torrential rain causing severe damage to the “Casamozza – Ponte Leccia” test (SS4), the second day of competition also consisted of just two stages.
The first was a repeat of “Francardo – Sermano” (SS5) in which Evans set a blinding time to clinch the rally lead yesterday evening. For the second pass however, the conditions had been made extremely difficult – mud and gravel producing inconsistent grip levels throughout much of the 36.43 kilometres.
In a particularly greasy section, Evans admitted to being overly cautious. Despite being close to Latvala through the previous split, that caution ultimately saw his 18.7 second lead reduced to a mere 1.7 seconds and the M-Sport man had it all to do in the following speed test.
The afternoon played host to the event’s longest stage – 48.46 kilometres of “Muracciole – Col de Sorba” (SS6) – and Evans proved that yesterday’s pace was no one off.
Despite losing the lead by the smallest of margins, he and Barritt set the third fastest time just 3.7 seconds shy of their rival.
Finding themselves a mere two seconds from the lead with three stages to go, there remains all to play for and the Brits are tantalisingly close to what could be a maiden WRC victory.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Ott Tänak and Raigo Mõlder felt much more comfortable on the circuit-like asphalt of SS6.
Finding some confidence on the drier roads, the Estonians reduced the stage deficit to the leaders whilst climbing into tenth place overall.
With stages of a similar character on the horizon, Tänak will be keen to make further gains as he continues to familiarise himself with the challenging nature of the Corsican speed tests.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, an M-Sport Ford Fiesta was also challenging at the top – Julien Maurin holding a 19 second lead behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RRC.
The Frenchman was arguably in a class of his own today – especially through SS6 in which he was 16.8 seconds clear of his nearest rival – and will be keen to give the Tour de Corse a French victor on home soil.
Elfyn Evans (2nd) said:
“It’s been another really good day for us. Having no previous experience of this event I never imagined that I’d be just two seconds off the lead going into the final day but we must have done something right because here we are!
“Of course it was disappointing to lose what was quite a lot of time to Jari-Matti [Latvala] on a single split [through SS5] this morning, but we were really happy with our performance on the second stage [SS6].
“To set the third fastest time through a fifty kilometre stage is no easy feat and even though we were a bit hesitant in places I was pleased with the potential we were able to show in there.
“Anything can still happen so we’ll be pushing on tomorrow. We don’t want to take any unnecessary risks as this is a very high-risk environment, but now that I’ve got a taste for sitting on the middle seat [on the podium], I want to be sitting there again!
“Tomorrow’s stages are quite similar to SS6 so hopefully we can keep the pressure on and take the fight to Jari-Matti. But whatever happens, I certainly won’t forget my first experience of this legendary event!”
Ott Tänak (10th) said:
“The last stage [SS6] was really nice and we seemed to find a really good rhythm. It was definitely the most enjoyable stage so far. Okay we were still a little edgy and the speed wasn’t anywhere near our potential but we will continue to find places to improve.
“If we can continue this rhythm we can certainly push a bit more and there are some nice stages tomorrow which I think will suit us a little better. I’m looking forward to those stages and to seeing what improvements we can make.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been another superb performance from Elfyn [Evans] today. He lost most of his lead on a particularly tricky section on the first stage [of the morning, SS5], but if you take that away his times were actually very close to Jari-Matti [Latvala] so he has certainly held his own and proved that his pace was no one off.
“No one can take this performance away from him and it has put us in a strong position to challenge for the victory on the final day. That’s something we’re certainly going to push for in the first instance, then we’ll take stock and decide whether to continue the charge or settle for second.”
4th October 2015