Evans cuts Ogier’s lead to 0.8s with win on first circuit stage

With the rally back at Monza base, title hopeful set tone for the afternoon by wiping out much of team-mate's advantage


Elfyn Evans zeroed in on Sébastien Ogier’s Monza Rally lead on the first circuit stage of the rally, reducing a 6.5-second deficit to just 0.8s.

The first four stages of the World Rally Championship’s 2021 season finale were held in the mountains near Bergamo before Friday’s afternoon three stages returned the rally to the racetrack at which it is based.

Ogier had beaten Evans on three of the first four tests as the Toyota team-mates distanced themselves from the rest, but Evans responded emphatically on SS5 Cinturato – outpacing Ogier, who was only sixth fastest, by 5.7s.

Ogier, who leads Evans by 17 points in the championship and therefore does not need to win the rally to secure an eighth world title, felt he was at a disadvantage running first on the road.

“It was extremely slippery for me, I expect starting first here is not so good,” he said. “It was an OK stage, but very slippery in places.”

Evans did not feel like his stage time was as impressive as it ended up being.

“It’s very difficult to know in here how to apply yourself, it’s such a lottery in a way with the grip and the conditions,” he explained. “It seemed to be OK but it’s very difficult to know.”


Thierry Neuville looked poised to better Evans’ stage-winning effort, and was 1.8s quicker at the first split alone. But the time began to trail away, and he eventually dropped 1.2s to the Toyota driver.

He ended the stage in a safe third but carrying a gearbox problem in his Hyundai.

“I was constantly losing some time,” Neuville said. “But I kept calm, we went to the finish so luckily we have some service now.”

A 15-minute flexi service followed SS5, which would allow only a small window in which to change the gearbox if needed.

Dani Sordo applied some pressure to Neuville’s podium place too, beating his team-mate by 0.9s to close to 6.4s behind overall. He took a strategic risk risk by carrying no spare tires for the three circuit stages.

“I didn’t feel I drove very good but it was better than this morning,” Sordo said. “We have a lot of stages in the circuit, so we need to try and keep the good rhythm here.”


Takamoto Katsuta – who won the last competitive WRC stage in the Monza grounds in 2020 before SS5 this year – looked on course to win the stage but stalled at a tight hairpin exiting the famous Monza banking, throwing away 6.3s.

“Honestly I am very frustrated,” he said. “One stall, still OK, still a long way to go. I’ll try to finish without a stall on the next run.”

Still, he beat M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith by 1.9s to increase his overall advantage in sixth place.


Greensmith “did the best he could” but, just like his team-mate Adrien Fourmaux earlier in the morning, went against the grain by selecting the soft compound Pirelli.

Oliver Solberg was quicker than both Greensmith and Katsuta despite a half-spin and remained an impressive fifth overall, setting the fourth-best time on Cinturato.

Teemu Suninen had been ahead of Greensmith after notional times were awarded to the majority of crews on SS4 but lost that place to his old M-Sport team-mate as he dropped 15.9s overall, and exactly six seconds to Greensmith, on the stage.

“I was just struggling on the braking and losing times on the braking I believe,” he offered by way of explanation.

Kalle Rovanperä continued to produce a risk-averse drive, but his deficit to the pacesetters was less severe on SS5, going 0.2s slower than rally leader Ogier on SS5 to cement his steady hold on ninth place.

SS5 times

1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 9m51s
2 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) +0.3s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +1.2s
4 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +3.8s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +5s
6 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +5.7s

Leading positions after SS5

1 Ogier/Ingrassia 49m01.9s
2 Evans/Martin +0.8s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe +22.7s
4 Sordo/Carrera +29.1s
5 Solberg/Edmondson +49.6s
6 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +1m03.6s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +1m14.9s
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai) +1m22.7s
9 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Haltunnen (Toyota) +1m44.2s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +3m04.2s