Elfyn Evans has been left praying for a rally miracle. Pic: Getty Images.

LIVE BLOG: Elfyn Evans Fourth At Rally Monza But Still On Course For WRC Title

Hello . . . . and welcome to Dai Sport’s live blog as Elfyn Evans bids to become the first Welsh driver to be crowned World Rally Champion.

The 31-year-old was lying fourth after Thursday’s opening special stage of Rally Monza on Thursday.

Evans was 2.7 seconds behind Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Sebastien Ogier who was quickest on SS1.

LATEST UPDATES BELOW

SS6 **Evans Stays Fourth**

Evans will finish the day in fourth place overall after taking one second back fro Ogier on the final stage of the day.

Run in darkness, entirely on asphalt taking in the F1 circuit and the old banked track, Evans clocked 5 mins 55.8secs over the 6mile course.

“It was very difficult in here,” said Evans after the stage. “A lot of aquaplaning, I just tried to be as fast as I could.

“At least we have made no mistakes and we’re still going.”

Sordo won the stage in a blistering time of 5:55.5 to regain the lead in the rally by one second from Lappi.

Ogier is 12 secs adrift with Evans 17.1 secs behind the Spaniard.

But if the duo finished in the same positions on Sunday then Evans would be champion. He would have a nine point lead with only a maximum of five points up for grabs on the power stage.

Saturday will see seven stages as the drivers head away from the F1 circuit where snow could be a factor in northern Italy.

Dai Sport will be running a live blog from the opening stage which starts at 06.52am!

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**SS5: Ogier Hits Back At Evans**

Evans clocked 11:56.6 on the second run of Cinturato 2, admitting the conditions were still difficult with the rainy conditions.

And Ogier responded by taking time out of the Welshman, going faster by 3.1 secs.

The gap between the two is now 6.1 secs though what is more important is that Evans is just one place behind his title rival on the standings.

And Tanak, who had been within 0.4secs of Evans after SS4, overshot on his next run losing around 2.5 seconds to the Dolgellau flier.

Keeping Tanak – who also has a slim chance of retaining his title – behind him on the time-sheets could be crucial to his championship hopes on Sunday.

Lappi still leads from Sordo with Ogier third and Evans fourth 16.6 secs behind the Finn.

**Standings after SS4**

POS. DRIVER TIME
1. Lappi 35min30.9sec
2. Sordo +3.3sec
3. Ogier +20.1sec
4. Evans +23.1sec
5. Tänak +23.5sec
6. Rovanperä +31.6sec

 

**SS4 Neuville hits bollard**

Neuville had gone into the rally 24 points behind Evans and still holding a slim mathematical chance of snatching the title.

But slim looks to have left town after the Belgian hit a concrete bollard at a chicane then ditched his Hyundai in a water splash.

Only Evans, Ogier and Tanak completed the stage before it was stopped with the other rally contenders getting to the finish at road speed.

They will be given notional times.

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**SS4 Evans moving up standings**

Evans clocked 11 mins 56.5 secs for the stage which was just over 10 miles long – and for the first time in the rally he took time out of Ogier.

The gap between the Toyota duo is now down to 3 secs after the Frenchman stalled and lost one second to his team-mate

“For sure, it was better. I was a bit too careful, but equally there was standing water which was just crazy,” said Evans afterwards.

With Tanak also slower on the stage, Evans leapfrogged over the Estonian as Neuville was forced to stop his Hyundai around six miles in and had to get out of the car.

The stage had to be stopped so Neuville’s stricken car could be moved to a safer part of the course.

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**SS4 start slightly delayed** Cinturato 1

Cinturato is the longest Monza stage and faster than the previous tests. Repeated surface changes mean the focus is again on constantly changing grip. It shares several sections with the morning Scorpion tests, some in the same direction and some the reverse way. Classic circuit sections blend with service roads, both asphalt and gravel, and two visits to the banked oval. The most varied of the Monza stages.

Elfyn Evans waiting patiently in car for start of SS4

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**Evans says he is trying to balance risk and reward**

He said after SS3: “We had a flavour of what is to come after last night and during shake-down.

“It’s rained pretty heavy but I think the grip levels on the tarmac are more or less what we expected.

“We have had a lot of standing water on the gravel sections.

“They are pretty rough and cut-up already. Now the roughs are just filling up with water.

“It’s tight at the top. We are trying to do our best but we also have to make sure we don’t make mistakes.

“It’s very easy to give away 10 seconds or event take a wheel off.

“It’s a balance between risk and reward and trying to be as clean and clinical as possible and not really waste time trying to make up time.

“It’s a difficult balance. It’s never easy how careful you are.”

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**Evans sixth after SS3**

Next stage – SS4 – Cinturato 1 at 1138hrs.

STANDINGS AFTER SS3:
POS. DRIVER TIME
1. Lappi 23min31.1sec
2. Sordo +3.3sec
3. Mikkelsen +22.2sec
4. Ogier +22.4sec
5. Tänak +23.5sec
6. Evans +26.4sec
7. Neuville +31.6sec

Evans clocked 10 mins 17.7 secs on his second run through Scorpion with Ogier – despite his windscreen misting up on the stage – again slightly quicker.

The gap between the Toyota duo is now 4.0 secs.

Evans says: “A lot of standing water. It’s difficult to keep the car in a straight line and moving forwards.”

Neuville claws back 10 of the more than seconds he lost on SS2 as he clocks 10:06.5 for the stage.

And Tanak is almost eight seconds quicker than Evans to leapfrog over the Welshman into fourth spot.

Evans stays fifth as Rovanpera – in another Yaris WRC car – drops time to slip two places to sixth.

But the rally has a new leader as Lappi – who opted to run snow tyres on the stage – is fastest by almost eight seconds from Sordo with a time of 9:56.8.

Lappi now leads by 3.3 secs from Sordo with Andrea Mikkelsen moving into third with Ogier 22.4secs back in fourth.

Evans is 26.4 secs adrift in sixth and on course for the title if positions remain the same.

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This season has been badly-affected by COVID-19 with rallies cancelled including what was set to be the penultimate round in Belgium last month.

Monza was a late addition because so many other events were lost.

But Spain’s two-time former champion Carlos Sainz insists that should not detract from an Evans title victory if that happens.

“I have been watching this year, you know that I will always keep an eye on things,” Sainz told DirtFish.com.

“I think Elfyn is doing a fantastic season in what is a very difficult year. I know Elfyn to say hello to, but I know Gwyndaf (his Dad),  we were team-mates together at Ford.

“For me, if Elfyn wins this championship then he is the champion and that’s the end. If you are the winner, you have the most points and you are the champion.”

 

 

Scorpio 2 starts at 09.08 UK time.

Elfyn Evans will be back at the F1 circuit at Monza on Friday for five more special stages.

 

STANDINGS AFTER SS2:
POS. DRIVER TIME
1. Sordo 13min29.7sec
2. Lappi +4.6sec
3. Ogier +7.1sec
4. Rovanperä +7.9sec
5. Evans +10.3sec
6. Tänak +15.1sec

 

But it’s all change on the stage as the Hyundai’s of Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak, the defending champion, drop time and slip behind Evans.

Belgium’s Neuville hits a bale and loses over 20 seconds to drop to 10th overall.

Evans slips to fifth as Spain’s Daniel Sordo clocks the fastest time on the stage to take the overall lead.

Ogier is now third – but if those were the places on Sunday – there is still a long way to go – then Evans would be champion.

Finland’s Esapekka Lapp has moved into second with another Finn – Kalle Rovanpera taking fourth place just ahead of Evans.

Evans is 10.3 seconds behind Sordo.

 

“Very difficult. I had a small stall – I had to get through,” said Evans

Evans clocks eight mins eight secs for the stage – again taking it easy knowing he can afford to finish second on the rally and be crowned champion.

Frenchman Ogier is next up and goes 0.5secs quicker to increase his advantage over Evans to 3.2 seconds.

As championship leader Evans is first on the road for the stage – which starts on service roads before turning onto the iconic banked corners of the old high-speed oval.

There are numerous chicanes and a grassy section with rain in northern Italy adding to the test.

 

 

Good morning…..and welcome to Dai Sport’s live blog as Elfyn Evans bids to become the first Welsh driver to be crowned World Rally Champion.

The 31-year-old is lying fourth after Thursday’s opening special stage of Rally Monza on Thursday.

Evans is 2.7 seconds behind Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Sebastien Ogier who was quickest on SS1.

The drivers are back in the Monza’s royal park for another five special stages set around the Formula One circuit, known as the Cathedral of Speed.

This morning there are two runs – Scorpion 1 and Scorpion 2 – of 8.25miles.

They are followed by two passes – Cinturato 1 and 2 – of 10 miles before a final blast around the F1 track.

But that will be unlike anything faced by Britain’s seven-time World Champion as it will be in darkness…………………..

 

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