WRC - Tänak heads Evans in epic duel | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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WRC - Tänak heads Evans in epic duel

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Tour de Corse - Saturday morning

2019 Tour de Corse - O. Tänak / M. Järveoja

Toyota’s Ott Tänak has reclaimed first place on the Tour de Corse but he heads M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans by only 2.3s. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville in third had finished yesterday’s first leg less than 10s off the lead but is now 17.2 behind Tänak.

Saturday is the longest day of the rally with a 3-stage loop run twice, which includes the rally’s longest stage: Castagniccia, a 47.18 kilometre test featuring multiple types of asphalt surface and even a section of gravel, making it a special challenge for the competing crews being all on hard compound asphalt tyres.

Evans started this morning’s loop with an advantage of 4.5s over his Estonian rival but conceded time on all three stages. The Brit first lost 3.7s on the shortest test, Désert des Agriates, leaving a gap of only 0.2s between the two top contenders. A second-fastest time on the challenging Castagniccia was enough for Tänak to retake the lead with a 2.3s advantage.

As the lead battle further intensified, Neuville was dropping back slightly, unable to keep the pace. The Belgian is now 17.2s off the lead but his gap to team-mate Dani Sordo behind remained relatively steady throughout the morning loop. Sordo dropped time on Cap Corse, the first stage of the morning, but set the fastest time in Castagniccia, which put him 16.1s behind Neuville in fourth place.

In the battle for fifth, M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen was able to retain his place over reigning FIA World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier on the first two stages but the Finn lost over half a minute in the following stage to the Citroën driver, who showed his class with a stunning run on Castagniccia. By comparison, Esapekka Lappi was 46.9s slower than his Citroën team-mate on this stage.

Ogier’s strong time, 1.4s off stage winner Sordo, promoted him to fifth. Lappi, however, continued to struggle with understeer on his Citroën C3. He classified 7th overall, 34s behind Suninen in a safe sixth place.

Nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb understeered wide into a bank approaching a medium left hander on the Castagniccia test. The Frenchman ended up facing the wrong way and lost 20s trying to get his Hyundai i20 going again.

Loeb is eighth overall but now has the two Toyotas of Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala trying to chase him down.

Meeke passed Latvala on the morning’s first test Désert des Agriates and is now up to ninth overall, 49.8s behind Loeb. Latvala is up to 10th, having now cleared the WRC 2 field behind him.

The 47km Castagniccia stage was particularty tough for the FIA WRC 2 field, with Eric Camilli dropping out of the lead and the top 10 overall after stopping in the stage and losing nearly two minutes.

Nicolas Ciamin should have inherited the lead from Camilli but he too was caught out and retired. Yoann Bonato, who had been second until being forced to stop on SS8, is now also down the order and it is Fabio Andolfi who is the new unexpected class leader, making an extraordinary jump from sixth to first in WRC 2 in one morning, with Camilli dropping to second.

M-Sport’s Ford Łukasz Pieniążek now leads the FIA WRC 2 Pro category for M-Sport after Škoda’s Kalle Rovanperä crashed out on Castagniccia.