Evans takes Monza Rally lead from title rival Ogier

Position swap between contenders for crown takes attention from Neuville, who gives Hyundai first stage win of weekend


Elfyn Evans has deposed Sébastien Ogier as the leader of Monza Rally, though at present that position change would not be enough for Evans to deny Ogier the World Rally Championship title.

Ogier constructed a 6.5-second lead over Evans on the first four stages on Friday, held in the mountains near Bergamo. But on the first stage within the confines of Monza, Evans went 5.7s quicker to go 0.8s shy of Ogier’s lead.

He beat Ogier again on the repeat pass of Cinturato by 2.1s to assume the rally lead, 1.3s ahead of his Toyota team-mate.

“It’s always difficult to know if you’re pushing too much or not it’s just the nature of these stages,” said Evans.


Ogier revealed at the end of SS6 that he had “a brake issue and basically the car stayed on the brakes the whole stage” on SS5, explaining his heavy time loss.

But despite feeling the grip was “more consistent” and the stage was “OK”, Ogier again couldn’t match Evans. However, with a 17-point championship lead, Ogier remains on course for an eighth world title should things stay as they are.

Thierry Neuville complained of a gearbox issue at the end of the first circuit stage, but his Hyundai was back in full working order on SS6.

He went fastest, sealing Hyundai’s first stage win of the rally by just 0.4s over the new rally leader Evans. Neuville is third overall, but 21.5s adrift.


“The speed isn’t there as it should [be] so we are trying different things on the car to see if we can do something,” he said.

The gap between Neuville and team-mate Dani Sordo almost doubled on SS6, Sordo losing 5.1s to the stage winner to lie 11.5s behind in fourth place.

Sordo did not sound like a driver who’d just lost a chunk of time though, saying “My drive was amazing, I’m happy” at the end of the stage.

“I don’t know what tires the other have but with this tire I can’t do much better.”


Oliver Solberg edged a little closer to Sordo overall too with his second consecutive fourth-fastest time. Competing alongside Elliott Edmondson for the first time, Solberg was 3.3s off the ultimate pace to consolidate his fifth place overall.

Takamoto Katsuta didn’t stall his Toyota on the repeat pass of Cinturato, but his pace was less impressive than it had been earlier in the afternoon.

The Toyota junior was still rapid compared to those around him on the leaderboard though, outpacing Gus Greensmith by 6.4s to extend his advantage over the seventh-placed M-Sport driver to 17.7s.

Greensmith didn’t feel like his run was as good as on SS5 but changed from soft to hard compound tires for SS6, saying the differing rubber “felt similar”. The hards meant Greensmith was “certainly more precise” at the end of SS6.

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Teemu Suninen was 0.4s faster than Greensmith in his Hyundai to edge a tiny bit closer overall, 7.4s behind in eighth.

Kalle Rovanperä continued his sensible plod in ninth, 18.9s down on Suninen. He was 2.6s quicker than his Finnish compatriot on Friday’s penultimate stage.

In WRC2, Andreas Mikkelsen pulled over in between the two Lesmo corners on the Grand Prix circuit to change a puncture. He rejoined behind his Toksport team-mate Marco Bulacia, who took the lead of the category.

Nikolay Gryazin relinquished his hold on 10th place too, meaning WRC3 leader Yohan Rossel – who is battling Kajetan Kajetanowicz for the title this weekend – has now assumed the spot.

Gryazin clipped a concrete part of one of the several chicanes constructed on Monza’s old banking and was pitched head-on into a haybale as a result. That caused significant rear-right damage and meant Gryazin – who isn’t scoring WRC2 drivers points this weekend – had to crawl through the last part of the stage.

SS6 times

1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 9m39.8s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +0.4s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +2.5s
4 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +3.3s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +4.5s
6 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) +5.1s

Leading positions after SS6

1 Evans/Martin 58m42.9s
2 Ogier/Ingrassia +1.3s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe +21.5s
4 Sordo/Carrera +33s
5 Solberg/Edmondson +51.7s
6 Katsuta/Johnston +1m06.9s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +1m24.6s
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai) +1m32s
9 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Haltunnen (Toyota) +1m50.9s
10 Yohan Rossel/Jacques-Julien Renucci (Citroën) +4m04.2s