Esapekka Lappi headed a Toyota Gazoo Racing 1-2 at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB after edging team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in Thursday night’s opening speed test.
Stage info: SS1 – Tir Prince, 1.70km
Thursday evening’s curtain-raiser was a short floodlit blast at Tir Prince trotting track and includes a slalom section, donuts and two eye-catching jumps. After a high-speed lap around long and flowing bends of the oval horse racing track, the stage ends with a twisty section on adjoining roads.
Lappi completed the dusty 1.70km stage 0.3sec quicker than fellow Finn Latvala. Both were at the wheel of Yaris World Rally Cars.
Championship leader Thierry Neuville matched Latvala’s time in his Hyundai i20 to tie for second, ahead of title rivals Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tänak.
Ogier finished 0.4 seconds behind the Belgian in a Ford Fiesta, with Estonian Tänak a further 0.2 seconds adrift in his Yaris.
Tänak recovered from a frustrating start to the day when he crashed in his first pass at this morning’s shakedown test in Clocaenog.
After missing the braking point on slippery gravel roads, he slid straight on into a bank and returned to the Deeside service park where his team replaced the cooling package.
Andreas Mikkelsen completed the top six in another i20.
Finnish WRC2 driver Kalle Rovanperä was the fastest in class, putting his Škoda Fabia R5 equal on the timing screen with countryman Teemu Suninen, and firmly in the top ten.
Tidemand Pontus was next in class with a time of 1:24.4, and Spaniard Nil Solans in the Ford third with a respectable 1:24.7.
In WRC3, British driver Tom Williams (1:38.3) led from Finn Taisko Lario (1:38.8) and the Italian Enrico Brazzoli (1:43.4) in their Peugeot 208’s.
The action switches into the north Wales forests on Friday. Three early morning tests are repeated in the afternoon following mid-leg service in Deeside, with two short fan-friendly tests at Slate Mountain completing the pre-lunch loop. The eight stages cover 110.76km.
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