Puncture on SS5 drops Evans to fifth

Plenty of drivers had issues on the final stage of the morning


Elfyn Evans has fallen from second to fifth after picking up a puncture on the final stage of Friday morning.

Evans had been the only driver who could live with Toyota team-mate Sébastien Ogier through the opening phases of the Monte Carlo Rally, trailing him by 11.3s after four stages.

But fortune deserted the Welshman on SS5 as he lost over 40s with a rear-right puncture that ultimately demoted him three places.

Asked where he got it, Evans replied: “I have no idea, it was just on the top of the very fast place, just a warning on the dash that’s all I got.”

Ogier meanwhile hasn’t relented, continuing his insane run of domination to remain the only driver to win a stage this World Rally Championship season.

Despite his lack of hybrid power, Ogier was 1.3s up on world champion Kalle Rovanperä who moved up two positions despite a wild slide early on the stage.

Rovanperä’s hairy moment fell on the first real corner of the stage. The rear of his Toyota got out of shape and clipped the Armco barrier on the edge of the left-hander.

It partially dislodged his rear bumper but otherwise all was fine.

Rovanperä explained: “The first big braking of the stage I had less grip than I was expecting and went wide. Luckily I could save the slide, but we have to see what we can fix.”

Thierry Neuville is now second after Evans’ problems but reckoned his tires had overheated two kilometers into the 12km stage, and described the test as “not much fun”.

He may be Ogier’s closest challenger overall but he’s some 32.7s off the lead, with 1.8s in hand over Rovanperä.

WRC 2023

Ott Tänak is 5.7s back in fourth, 14.5s clear of the luckless Evans, but struggled for pace on SS5.

His stage was far better than team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet’s though as the 25-year-old lost his power-steering early on the stage.

Loubet clipped a small rock on the inside of a corner and ran wide on approach to a hairpin, nudging a sign-post.

But it soon became clear that he hadn’t emerged unscathed as Loubet lost well over a minute and physically struggled to get his Ford Puma Rally1 to the end of the stage.

“On the braking I locked a bit the front but nothing happened in the direction of the steering,” he said. “The car didn’t turn at all and I think I lose the power-steering.”

Dani Sordo is now a comfortable sixth ahead of Hyundai team-mate Esapekka Lappi, but Takamoto Katsuta is just half a second behind Lappi overall.

Words:Luke Barry