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M-Sport World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans was on course to secure a solid start to his Wales Rally GB. Unfortunately the Welsh stages fought back and the local hero’s hard work was undone – a puncture relegating him to the lower end of the overall top-ten.

Hafren, Sweet Lamb and Myherin formed the order of the day – two loops of three classic stages accounting for 131.40 competitive kilometres. Notorious for springing a surprise or two, the Welsh forests lived up to their nature and a number of experienced crews fell by the wayside. Unfortunately, Evans’ Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC was to join the list of unfortunates as he suffered at the hand of Hafren.

E. Evans / D. Barritt
E. Evans / D. Barritt
O. Tanak / R. Molder
O. Tanak / R. Molder
O. Tanak / R. Molder
O. Tanak / R. Molder

Holding a strong fifth place, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt secured the biggest cheer when the field rolled into Newtown for the midday regroup. Despite being disadvantaged with a later running order over the morning loop, the pairing have consistently improved their gravel performance and were making the most of the Welsh support.

Keeping the fight for the podium positions well within sight, it looked as though the Brits would have every chance of challenging for a strong result when the route turned to their preferred stages tomorrow. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Picking up a puncture midway through the 32.14 kilometres of ‘Hafren 2’ (SS4), the pairing lost close to a minute and a half to the leading pack – undoing their hard work and relegating them to an undeserving eighth place overall.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Ott Tänak and Raigo Mõlder were struggling to unlock their speed on gravel. Road position was not in the Estonians’ favour and an ambitious set-up did not play to their advantage. Running behind their rivals, they had to endure the worst of the conditions and a suspension set-up that was too soft meant that they struggled to find their rhythm.

As the surface became more consistent over the second loop, Tänak was able to improve his times and climbed to sixth place overall – from where he’ll be keen to make further gains over the remainder of the event.

Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, M-Sport were once again at the top of the time sheets – Eric Camilli piloting his Ford Fiesta R5 to the head of the WRC’s premier support series.

Claiming two stage victories on his way to a 9.4 second advantage, the Frenchman was proving the power and performance of M-Sport’s R5 challenger.

Ott Tänak (6th) said:

“It’s been an okay day for us and we drove really smoothly. We were trying a new set-up – trying to do something different for this rally. Obviously it’s not quite worked out for us today so we’ll go back to the base set-up tomorrow and see if we can improve the pace. It wasn’t possible to push the limits today, but hopefully it will be possible to do that tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:

“The puncture was a disappointment and not what we wanted from the day but it’s just one of those things. We didn’t hit anything, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. Now we just have to focus on having some fun and really enjoying what are some fantastic stages tomorrow.

“I prefer the character of tomorrow’s stages and we’ll be aiming to push on to see what we can do. As we saw today, the road position will make it difficult to reach for the top times but if we can get into a good rhythm and have some fun out there then we should be able to climb a few places.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“The clear advice this morning was that both drivers should go out and push. We had nothing to lose so they were free to go do battle. It didn’t go as well as we planned with Elfyn [Evans] picking up the puncture and Ott [Tänak] just struggling to produce the speed that we know he is capable of on gravel. Tomorrow is another day and I hope that we’ll be able to regroup and gain a few places in the process.

“In the WRC 2 category, it’s great to the see the Ford Fiesta R5 performing so strongly once again. Eric Camilli has put in another sterling performance and I have been very impressed with him today. Competing against an extremely strong field in what were some very challenging conditions, he has performed brilliantly and demonstrated the power and performance of the Fiesta R5 with real flair.”