Evans leads after chaotic day

Evans leads after chaotic day

After a difficult first special on Thursday, the Toyotas occupy the first three places in Rally Japan, and the gaps are high between Elfyn Evans, Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä. The day, marked by rain, notably saw Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo and Adrien Fourmaux abandon.

If the Toyotas had missed Thursday during the first special of the Japan rally (none in the Top 4), which consisted of a short loop in the Toyota Stadium, they made up for it on Friday, since they occupied the first three places in the classification after seven special stages (out of 22). It was Elfyn Evans who came out the best from a chaotic day, where it rained a lot, and where the two Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo had to retire, just like the Ford Puma M-Sport of Adrien Fourmaux, to whom the British team had given a chance for this rally.

From the first special of the day (SS2), that of the “haunted” Isegami tunnel, Elfyn Evans took the lead in the general classification, dominating Sébastien Ogier by four seconds and Thierry Neuville, who had won the special, by 21 seconds. from Toyota Stadium. The double world champion Kalle Rovanperä, who opened the road, covered in pine needles, lost 32 seconds, while Dani Sordo went off the road and had to abandon. A few moments later, it was Adrien Fourmaux who went off the road in the same place and also had to give up. Before the Spaniard and the Frenchman, this corner also saw Takamoto Katsuta spin, but the Japanese was able to resume his journey, despite some damage to his radiator.

The puddles, the mist, the pine needles…

The third special was a little less eventful and again saw Evans win, 10 seconds ahead of Neuville (who nevertheless said that he had never been as afraid on a rally as during this morning!) , while Ogier was 39 seconds behind and Rovanperä at 65. All the drivers complained about the puddles at the start of the special causing aquaplaning, and many (Rovanperä, Tänak, Ogier…) regretted the lack of visibility due to the fog on the windows of their cars. And finally, it was a WRC2 driver, Andreas Mikkelsen, who set the third time at the wheel of his Skoda, to find himself fourth overall behind the Evans-Neuville-Ogier trio, who were then in 43 seconds.

The fourth stage was canceled due to weather conditions, and during SS5, which consisted of a second pass through the Isegami tunnel, it was Katsuta who came out best, despite his mechanical problems, ahead of Neuville by three seconds and Ogier by sixteen. Elfyn Evans was less radiant, conceding 19 seconds to the Japanese, but retained the lead, ten seconds ahead of the Belgian. But Neuville didn’t stay in the race for victory for long. After 100m of SS6, he left the road and hit a tree. Although the driver and his co-driver escaped unscathed, their Hyundai suffered and they too had to retire. The other competitors had no problems, and Evans was 44 seconds ahead of Ogier overall. SS7, where there was much less water, did not open up much of a gap, and the Welshman is now 51 seconds ahead of the Frenchman, before the night special at Toyota Stadium (2.1km).

Ranking after SS7 (out of 22) – Friday November 17, 2023
1- Elfyn Evans – Scott Martin (GBR-GBR/Toyota) en 1h23″20″7
2- Sébastien Ogier – Vincent Landais (FRA-FRA/Toyota) at 50″9
3- Kalle Rovanperä – Janne Halttunen (FIN-FIN/Toyota) à 2’07″4
4- Andreas Mikkelsen – Torstein Eriksen (NOR-NOR/Skoda) à 2’56″3
5- Grégoire Munster – Louis Louka (LUX-BEL/Ford) at 2’59″5

Special stage winners
Neuville : 1 (ES1)
Evans : 2 (ES2, ES3)
Try : 3 (ES5, ES6, ES7)

SS4 has been canceled

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