Evans grabs early WRC lead in Argentina

2017-04-28 18:11:38

Welshman Elfyn Evans heads the Rally Argentina leaderboard after a string of fastest times in the morning loop of Friday stages before the crews head into the super special. The Fiesta WRC driver already has over 20 seconds in hand to Jari-Matti Latvala, who moved up into second after Kris Meeke launched his C3 off the road and dropped over six minutes. The Northern Irish driver has now been forced to retire, alongside teammate Craig Breen who suffered with a damaged gearbox.

Rally Argentina got underway last night with the opening super special stage in the city of Cordoba, where reigning FIA World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier set the pace. This morning, however, the crews headed south into the Santa Rosa de Calamuchita mountains for the first of two loops of three stages and a short blast around another super special stage. Evans set the pace immediately, capitalizing on his advantageous road position. Despite not feeling entirely comfortable with the balance of the car, he went on to win all three mountain stages.

Kris Meeke was his nearest challenger during the morning but had a big moment in the first stage and then got caught out on the final long stage, the C3 off the road and sustaining too much damage to ultimately continue. Latvala then moved up into second after a good run, despite upsetting the balance of the car when he lost part of the front bumper through a water crossing. While 23.6 seconds down on Evans, the Finn is only 8.6 seconds ahead of third-placed Mads Ostberg, the Norwegian back in the championship as a privateer in a 2017-specification Fiesta WRC. 

Fourth is held by Ott Tanak, a mere 1.2 seconds further adrift. The Estonian is struggling to find a good feeling with the car but remains in the fight for third and is battling hard to stay ahead of Ogier. The Frenchman had a disappointing start when he overshot a junction and went into a ditch, dropping a handful of seconds. Thierry Neuville, winner of the last round in Corsica, dropped time with a broken damper, and it’s been a bad morning for his teammates, too; Hayden Paddon rolled in the opening stage, dropping over two minutes and leaving him with suspension problems and no engine cooling fan, while Dani Sordo was forced to change a steering arm. They are ninth and 20th, respectively.

Lorenzo Bertelli is enjoying an upsurge in pace and the Italian is seventh in another private Fiesta WRC, ahead of the first FIA WRC 2 contender, Pontus Tidemand. The Swede won all three mountain stages this morning and is nearly two minutes ahead of Gustavo Saba, the Paraguayan moving up the order when Hubert Ptaszek stopped in the final stage. Juho Hanninen had a difficult morning in the Toyota, the Finn down on power throughout.

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