The 2021 Monte Carlo Rally didn’t take long to claim its first victim. Less than a stage in fact, as Teemu Suninen crashed out of the rally towards the end of the opening St-Disdier – Corps test.
M-Sport’s Suninen wasn’t the only driver to find bother with the tricky right-left sequence however, as Toyota’s Elfyn Evans “took off like a sledge” in his Yaris WRC after squirrelling through the right-hander.
It was a heart-in-the-mouth moment for last year’s World Rally Championship runner-up, but he survived to record the third-fastest time; a feat he repeated on SS2 to lie third overall after Thursday’s pair of stages.
Suninen wasn’t so fortunate. Braking on the painted white line on the road caused both drivers to run into trouble, but Suninen was carrying that bit of extra speed and slammed into what his team principal Rich Millener described as “a soft bank” on the left.
That collision pitched the Finn’s Fiesta WRC into a barrel roll before it slid down a bank, off the road and into a tree. He will not take any further part in the rally as a result of a damaged rollcage.
Evans admits that had he been going a little bit quicker into the corner “it could’ve easily been a different story” for him too.
“It felt pretty bad inside the car,” he said. “It was quite high-speed, and just so unexpected really.
“I braked where I thought was really early and it took off like a sledge really. Thankfully I had that little margin in hand because I think it could’ve easily been a different story had I been a bit more brave. But yeah, it was fairly on the edge.”
Evans lies 8.5 seconds behind rally leader Ott Tänak with 12 stages left to go, and admitted to struggling on the second test after it was delayed by close to 20 minutes once he was already ready to go.
That, coupled with inexperience with the new-for-2021 Pirelli tires, cost Evans five seconds to stage winner Tänak.
“I think the conditions haven’t really suited what we’ve had on the car so much this afternoon,” Evans said, referring to his selection of four supersoft slick tires.
“I think it was the correct choice in a way, but then at the same time the long delay at the start of SS2 and then all that shiny Tar and difficult section made it very difficult to get heat in the tire.
“In that stage I struggled to find confidence.”
His team-mate Sébastien Ogier also had confidence issues after being inflicted by a brake problem on SS1, which then left him unwilling to push the limits on SS2.