By Gareth James
Elfyn Evans snatched the lead in the Monte Carlo Rally and looks set for a battle royal this weekend with team-mate Sebastien Ogier.
The Dolgellau ace won one of Friday’s five special stages in the French Alps to end the day with a slender 7.4 secs advantage over the Frenchman after a tricky day.
Ogier won all the other stages having taken the lead earlier but lost over half-a-minute when his Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC car suffered a puncture on the Aspremont – La Bâtie-des-Fonts speed test.
Evans, who had moved up from his overnight third place to second on the opening stage of the day, claimed victory on that SS6 where Ogier hit problems.
Incredibly demanding conditions out there this afternoon but our drivers handled it well and are in great positions 👏
— Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT (@TGR_WRC) January 22, 2021
The 32-year-old would have had an even handier lead over the Frenchman but lost 16 secs on the final stage of the day where he was sixth fastest.
“It’s very tricky,” said Evans who has three more stages on Saturday and four more on Sunday on the opening rally of the season.
“I was too careful in some places, but the car has a mind of its own sometimes. Not specifically the car, but the conditions are just so tricky.”
Evans lost the chance to make history last season when he saw the WRC hopes slip away in northern Italy as Ogier claimed his seventh title.
But an historic victory on the Monte would be the perfect way to start the campaign which has again been disrupted by COVID-19.
It will be tough holding off Ogier on his home roads with his rival having triumphed on the rally seven times in his career.
Estonia’s Ott Tanak, who led after Thursday’s opening two stages, slipped to third 25.3 secs off the pace of Evans.
POSITIONS AFTER SS7
1. Elfyn Evans 01hr33min57.5sec
2. Sebastien Ogier +7.4sec
3. Ott Tänak +25.3sec
4. Thierry Neuville +53.1sec
5. Kalle Rovanperä +59.1sec