Elfyn Evans leads his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship after the opening four stages of Wales Rally GB. The Welshman has pulled out a slim but significant 6.7 second advantage as he continues his bid for a maiden WRC victory. Championship contender Ott Tänak is second with Britain’s Kris Meeke third, 16 seconds adrift of the lead.
The penultimate round of the Championship kicked off last night with a short blast around the Tir Prince raceway, which was narrowly won by Championship leader Sébastien Ogier. Today, however, the crews headed a long way south of the Deeside base for two loops of three stages, all to be run with nothing more than a change of tyres and a regroup in Newtown. Evans was on the pace from the outset and fastest time through the Myherin stage saw him take the lead and become the first British driver to head Rally GB since Colin McRae in 2001. He also won the final stage in the loop and tops the field as the crews arrived in Newtown. Tänak hasn’t been entirely comfortable in the sister Fiesta but the Estonian won the second stage and has moved from fourth last night to second. Having struggled to find a good set-up during Thursday’s shakedown, Kris Meeke is now happy with the C3 WRC and has moved from 16th last night to third, just four-tenths of a second ahead of Ogier. The Frenchman, who is bidding to seal the title in Wales, led last night but has been cautious judging the different grip levels on the slippery stages.
Jari-Matti Latvala is fifth and within striking distance of those ahead but he too has struggled to get into a good rhythm and find the right set-up. Andreas Mikkelsen heads Hyundai’s challenge in sixth, ahead of team-mate Thierry Neuville by 2.1 seconds. The Belgian hasn’t had a great start of the event; he picked up a 10 second penalty last night for arriving late at the stage when the i20 WRC wouldn’t start, and then went off in the first test this morning. Struggling with understeer he changed the diff settings and was then happier with his performance. Hyundai’s other two cars are eighth and ninth in the hands of Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon with Juho Hänninen 10th for Toyota, the Finn really struggling with the conditions. Craig Breen had been running as high as sixth until picking up a puncture in the final stage of the loop and dropping over a minute.
In the FIA WRC 2 Championship category, provisional champion Pontus Tidemand leads by 7.5 seconds over Škoda team-mate Ole Christian Veiby, the Swede taking two stage wins to Veiby’s one. The two-wheel drive WRC 3 category is being led by Raphaël Astier in a Peugeot 208.