Predictions of torrential rain having an effect on day 1 of the Tour de Corse, round 11 of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship, proved to be correct as M-Sport‘s Elfyn Evans leads the way after a rain-soaked first day. The Welsh driver won the final stage of the day to leap from sixth place to lead the rally by 18.7 seconds heading into the second leg.
“I’m a bit surprised,”said Evans. “The first stage was difficult, but not due to the conditions as it had dried a lot. In the last stage I had a good rhythm but when there’s that much water, gravel and dirt you concentrate on staying on the road rather than attacking.”
The event got underway with the 29.12 km Plage du Liamone – Sarrola-Carcopino stage this morning with Shakedown winner Robert Kubica setting joint fastest time in his Ford Fiesta WRC RS, tied wth Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sebastien Ogier. The pair were 5.8 seconds faster than the Volkswagen Polo WRC of Jari Matti Latvala with Dani Sordo a further 5.7 seconds behind in fourth. Mads Ostberg ended the first test fifth 14.3 seconds of the lead. The first high profile casualty was Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville who hit a bridge and damaged the suspension on his i20 WRC just 1.2km into stage 1.
The weather was playing havoc with the Corsican roads and as a result stage two had to be cancelled due to flooding on the road section to the stage and landslides in the test itself. This meant that the only remaining test of the day was the 36.43 km Francardo – Sermano 1 stage and it would prove to be full of drama. The first driver to fall foul of the conditions was Ogier who stopped in the test to change a puncture losing 90 seconds and plunging down the order. Dani Sordo also hit trouble losing two minutes after hitting a rock and suffering a puncture.
Evans won the stage by 10.3 seconds and took the lead with Hyundai’s Kevin Abbring also springing a surprise and taking second place in only his second asphalt event in a World Rally Car. Jari-Matti Latvala retained third place as he continued his cautious drive. Ostberg moved up to fourth while Robert Kubica dropped to fifth 40.3 seconds off the lead. Former F1 driver Stephane Sarrazine holds sixth in his Ford Fiesta WRC RS while Andreas Mikkelsen is just 1.4 seconds behind in seventh in the third VW. Kris Meeke ended the day eight after reporting a misfire on the final stage while Bryan Boffier and Ogier round out the top ten.
The event restarts tomorrow with three more stages around the island of Corsica, the longest being the 48.46km Muracciole – Col de Sorba test.