Evans responds to Ogier’s Monza attack

The two title challengers were split by just 0.1 seconds on SS2


Elfyn Evans has responded to Sébastien Ogier’s early Monza Rally attack, outpacing his World Rally Championship rival on the second stage of the event.

Ogier blasted into a 3.6-second lead over title rival Evans on the opener and had looked set to pull further clear on Costa Valle Imagna, two seconds up on Evans at the midpoint split.

But Ogier admitted he was “a bit careful” in the fog that lurked at the higher altitude of the test and Evans managed to bring it back, beating Ogier by 0.1s to narrow the leader’s advantage to 3.5s.

“It felt quite OK at the end, difficult with the fog which brought some moisture to the stage but all OK,” said Evans.

The two title contenders are already beginning to make the contest for rally victory a two-way affair, as the two Yaris WRCs were miles clear of the rest.


Thierry Neuville jumped past Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo into third but is already 16.8s down on Ogier’s lead, admitting that his lack of experience of these stages – as he retired last year before the rally left the confines of Monza – may be holding him back.

“I’m pushing quite hard,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the [extra] spare wheel on the downhill with the brakes [that’s causing the time loss]. I also didn’t do the stages last year so I’m discovering a bit.”

Sordo is now 0.6s behind his team-mate after what he felt was a “really bad” stage, struggling with the low-lying sun and the fog.

He did at least stretch his advantage over 2C Hyundai driver Oliver Solberg who was fifth fastest to hold the same position overall, 11s behind Sordo but just 1.9s clear of Adrien Fourmaux.

“I thought it was absolutely horrible on this one, I thought I was going to lose a minute on this one. In the fog I could not drive at all,” Solberg said.


“Too careful on many places but I know easily where the time is from the top guys so that’s nice for me at least.”

Fourmaux pulled further clear of his M-Sport team-mate Gus Greensmith, holding sixth place after the first pair of stages.

Fourmaux is on soft compound Pirellis with his rivals on hard but feels “it was a bit too soft for the stage but at least we tried”.

“It’s good experience for us, for the future it’s better to know so it’s interesting,” he added. “The tires started to be moving a lot so we lost precision.”

Greensmith is 9.6s behind Fourmaux on his first rally with Jonas Andersson as co-driver, but “felt like he dropped a lot of time in there” as he set stopped the clocks ninth quickest.

Takamoto Katsuta has closed up on the M-Sport driver though, lurking just 0.8s behind in eighth – beating Greensmith by 1.5s on SS2.


Fellow Toyota driver Kalle Rovanperä meanwhile has dropped to 10th, over a minute down on the rally leader already as he continued his sedate pace on SS2.

Hyundai debutant Teemu Suninen has therefore leapt ahead and is only 1.8s in arrears of Katsuta – but not entirely happy.

“I’m struggling with the downhill braking with a lot of leaves, I can’t find good grip,” he said.

SS2 times

1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 12m59.0s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +0.1s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +8.6s
4 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) +11.3s
5 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +17.5s
6 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +19.1s

Leading positions after SS2

1 Ogier/Ingrassia 19m41.9s
2 Evans/Martin +3.5s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe +16.8s
4 Sordo/Carrera +17.4s
5 Solberg/Edmondson +28.4s
6 Fourmaux/Coria +30.3s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +39.9s
8 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +40.7s
9 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai) +42.5s
10 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Haltunnen (Toyota) +1m02.1s