Sordo crashes out of Japan, Evans leads

The opening Isegami's Tunnel test was dramatic to say the least

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Dani Sordo has crashed out of Rally Japan on Friday morning’s first stage, as Elfyn Evans went fastest to take the lead of the rally.

Torrential rain made the conditions “horrific” in the words of Evans, and massively shook up the leaderboard on Isegami’s Tunnel.

First on the road Kalle Rovanperä for example dropped over half a minute to his team-mate Evans on the stage, who was fastest by four seconds over the other Toyota of Sébastien Ogier.

Both drivers looked like they were going to be beaten by Takamoto Katsuta and Sordo on the splits though, as the Toyota and Hyundai pilots put the hammer down.

But Katsuta suffered a spin and was 27.9s down on Evans before the stage was briefly red-flagged due to Sordo’s accident in the awful conditions. He arrived to the end of the stage with heavy front-end damage to his Toyota, begging the stage-end marshals for water.

Sordo, who was second fastest through the early splits, simply locked up under braking in his Hyundai and ran off the road at the same corner that Katsuta spun at.

Isegami’s Tunnel has never been a kind event to the Spaniard, who retired on this very same test 12 months ago when his i20 N Rally1 burnt out to a hulk.

Adrien Fourmaux didn’t make the end of the stage either, but it’s currently unclear why.

Overall, Thierry Neuville slipped from first to third, 15.9s off the lead with Andreas Mikkelsen a sensational fourth overall in his WRC2-spec Škoda. Ott Tänak (+29.9s) and Rovanperä (+31.4s) completing the top six.

Esapekka Lappi took it easily and is already over a minute behind.