Elfyn Evans extended his Wales Rally GB lead to nearly half a minute in Friday afternoon’s loop of stages, including a third stage win in the second running of the Myherin test.
Having won the two longest stages of the opening loop, Evans continued to increase his gap to M-Sport team-mates Ott Tänak and Sébastien Ogier, the latter restoring his earlier third place after a battle with Kris Meeke.
Ogier had initially been Evans’ closest rival for the lead, but dropped back to fourth when taking a conservative approach to the first running of Hafren. He changed tactics in the afternoon loop, pushing closer to the limit but still unable to keep pace with his Welsh colleague.
The four time world champion suggested Evans was making good use of a tyre advantage, saying he hoped to be the “best of the Michelin guys,” referencing the DMACK tyres unique in the WRC category to the third M-Sport entry.
Struggling with an unspecified car issue which caused a stall and time penalty on Thursday, Thierry Neuville recovered well in the afternoon loop, winning the re-run of Hafren. There was a worrying moment for the all-Belgian crew in Myherin, as co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul began to loose his voice, causing Neuville to miss certain pace-notes.
Gilsoul’s voice improved in the final pair of tests, allowing Neuville to leapfrog both Jari-Matti Latvala and Meeke for fourth place, 10.3 seconds off Ogier ahead.
Andreas Mikkelsen, Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon held station in a Hyundai block from seventh to ninth established in the morning loop, with Juho Hänninen occupying the final points scoring position in tenth.
The Toyota driver was struggling to cope with the slippery conditions, losing almost two minutes to leader Evans on pace alone during the course of the day, but his quest for the final point was aided by further misery for those behind.
Esapekka Lappi cut a frustrated figure from start to finish, far off the pace of the rest of the WRC field bar gentleman racer Khalid Al Qassimi in the third Citroën. Pushing as hard as he dared despite his lack of speed, Lappi would finish the day just out of the points in eleventh.
A slow puncture in the morning loop had already cost Craig Breen over a minute, and his progress afterwards towards the points was halted when he dropped his C3 into a ditch in the second pass of Hafren, unable to continue further.
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