Toyota Yaris WRC driver Ott Tänak is less than five seconds away from the lead and holding second overall on the Tour de Corse, following a strong performance on the opening day of the demanding asphalt event: the French round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The day consisted of three stages in the south of Corsica, each run twice with no mid-day service. Tänak claimed the lead on the second stage and increased it by winning SS3, although only 1.3 seconds separated him from his main rival at lunchtime. In the afternoon, Tänak produced another clean and consistent run to provisionally end the day as the leader.
After Tänak’s rival Elfyn Evans was inadvertently delayed behind the Toyota of Kris Meeke in SS6, the team fully supported a request for Evans to be awarded the same time as Tänak. It means Tänak is 4.5 seconds away from the lead going into day two.
It proved to be a tough day for Tänak’s team-mates. Jari-Matti Latvala was running sixth overall when he stopped to change a tyre on SS5, costing him three minutes and leaving him 13th at the end of the day.
Kris Meeke lost around 50 seconds in the opening stage when he damaged his front-left wheel and tyre. Meeke matched Tänak’s pace over the subsequent three stages – winning one of them – before he ran wide in SS5 and hit a kerb. Carrying suspension damage through the day’s final stage, he lost nearly three minutes in total. He is 16th overall, but points remain well within reach for both he and Latvala with two days remaining.
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“Ott has done a good job through the whole day with no mistakes whatsoever. The car was not absolutely perfect for him, as he had an issue with the front-left damper, so I don’t think he could push completely flat-out and he did well to manage it. Tomorrow is another long day and I’m sure he can keep up the fight. Jari-Matti and Kris just need to have a reset tomorrow morning after the time they lost today. Kris’ performance was very fast, and I think he was a bit unlucky with what happened in the morning, as was Jari-Matti this afternoon. There is still a long way to go and they just need to keep enjoying the driving.”
Ott Tänak (Driver car 8)
”I am quite happy with my day. In the morning I was not actually in the best rhythm, as my notes were not perfect on these new stages. This afternoon it was definitely better in that sense, and we had a good feeling. We haven’t been pushing the limits yet, but the car is performing well and I quite enjoyed it. Our closest rivals have been setting good times, so it’s clear that we will need to push quite hard tomorrow if we want to beat them. The long stage will be the key stage of the rally: It’s very tricky so it won’t be easy, but I believe it will be possible for us to make a big difference there.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
“The middle stage of the loop was difficult for me today. In the morning my notes were not working well there and we lost a lot of time. We did a lot of work on that over lunch and I was really confident that we could make a good time in the afternoon pass. Two kilometres into the stage there were quite a lot of cuts where gravel had come onto the road, and the tyre started to slowly go down – it was just one of those unfortunate things that can happen. We decided to try and carry on but eventually we had to stop and change it. The car has been feeling good, I’ve really enjoyed the driving. We will keep going and see where we are at the end of the rally.”
Kris Meeke (Driver car 5)
“It’s been a difficult day to be honest. On the first stage, in a long fast left-hander, I had ‘keep to the inside’ in my pace-notes, and we hit something that I obviously hadn’t seen in the recce. After that the pace was good and we were trying to make up some places. In the afternoon, there was a fast left with a cut, I caught some gravel and we touched the kerb on the outside and broke a suspension arm, which I had to carry through the last stage. I’m very happy that Elfyn has been given a fair time: In no way did we intend to hold him up. Today just hasn’t been good enough. We had a package capable of winning this rally: The Yaris has been incredible to drive. We will continue to enjoy driving the car and try and keep it clean for the rest of the weekend.”
End of day one (Friday):
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1h09m39.6s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.5s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +9.8s
4 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +26.1s
5 Teemu Suninen/Marko Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +30.9s
6 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +36.3s
7 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +46.3s
8 Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m27.9s
9 Eric Camilli/François-Xavier Buresi (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) +2m46.4s
10 Yoann Bonato/Benjamin Boullard (Citroën C3 R5) +3m06.4s
13 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3m33.6s
16 Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3m45.1s
(Results as of 18:00 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Saturday is the longest day of the rally, with two identical loops of three stages totalling 174.5 kilometres. The first two stages of the loop take the crews along Corsica’s north coast, before the long Castagniccia en route back to service at Bastia Airport.
Castagniccia (SS9 & SS12, 47.18 kilometres)
Seb Marshall (Co-driver car 5):
“The longest stage of the rally is familiar in some parts, but only in the opposition direction, so essentially it’s a whole new stage. It’s got a bit of everything, with both wide and narrow roads. There’s also a section of about five or six kilometres where there’s a strip of nice fresh asphalt, but the other half of the road is almost a gravelly surface. That will be really tricky, particularly for the second pass with a lot of loose stones around.”
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