Toyota’s Elfyn Evans leads Rally Chile after the opening loop of stages on Friday, which ended with Pierre-Louis Loubet rolling out.
M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tänak was the leader after SS1, which he won by 2.1 seconds over Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen while Evans dropped 4.9s. But Evans was then the driver to beat over the next two, winning SS2 by 1.5s over team-mate Kalle Rovanperä and SS3 by 0.9s over Tänak.
Suninen is in second place overall, 2.6s off the lead and just 0.1s ahead of Tänak despite a spin for the latter on SS2 and a heavy landing from a jump that knocked out the hybrid system on his car for the rest of that stage and the next one. He also commented at the end of SS3 that he thought he had damper issues, denying him the opportunity to win all three stages with the pace he otherwise had.
The road-sweeping position that Rovanperä had as first into the stages cost him a lot of time on the opening stage, but he decreased his deficit to the pace in the next two stages to sit 13.6s behind in fourth overall. He was struggling with “oversteering everywhere” on SS3.
Also struggling through all three stages was Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who said after SS3: “It’s very scary, to be honest, I’m fighting like hell and I’m having a lot of moments”. He dropped 11.8s to Evans in that stage, and is already a sizeable 21.7s back going into the afternoon loop.
He gained a spot though as M-Sport’s Loubet rolled out of fourth place. His Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid ended up in woodland quite far away from the stage road. Both he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul are OK.
They were the second leading crew to crash out after Esapekka Lappi’s roll at the end of SS1.
Rally1 debutant Gregoire Munster’s co-driver navigated the morning loop using a phone rather than a pacenote book, and the M-Sport crew sit seventh overall.
Sami Pajari leads WRC2, 2.4s ahead of Oliver Solberg.