Evans surges into lead in Corsica after appeal

Bastia (France) (AFP) –


After a fierce duel on Friday throughout the opening day of the Rally of Corsica, Elfyn Evans and Ott Tanak exchanged the lead one more time after the racing had finished.

The young Welshman was slowed by another car on the last stage, and, for a while, it seemed that Toyota's Tanak had regained the lead. But after the M-Ford team appealed, Evans was restored to first.

On dry roads and under a bright sun, Evans had led after he won the opening stage. Tanak, the championship leader, then took it on the third stage before Evans won the forth and fifth stages to regain first.

Disaster struck for Evans on the last stage on the winding roads in the final stage when the his Ford was held up by the damaged Toyota of Tanak's team-mate Kris Meeke, who was slow to let his fellow Brit pass.

Belgian Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai won the stage with Estonian Tanak 1.4 seconds behind in second.

At the end of the stage, Meeke leapt out of his car to apologise to Evans and quickly tweeted: "Sorry for holding Elfyn up on the last stage but no way was it intended."

Evans echoed the sentiment: "I know Kris well, he wouldn't do that intentionally."

"I spoke to Toyota mid-stage, when it looked like Elfyn was going to catch Kris, to see if they could get a message to Kris," said his team principal Richard Millener. "It's difficult to do that in a stage and it doesn't look like that went through

"We believe that a fair decision would be to give Elfyn the same time as Tanak," Millener said as the M-Ford team lodged their appeal.

The race stewards agreed.

Their decision kept Evans in first with a 4.5 second lead over Tanak. Neuville is third, 9.8sec off the lead.

"I feel good in the car but I lack a bit of grip to go faster," Neuville said.

Tanak's closest challenger in the overall standing, Frenchman Sebastian Ogier, is sixth, 36.3sec behind Evans.

Ogier could not recover the time he lost when he spun his Citroen on the first stage.

"I have to find a way to make the car turn," Ogier said. "It doesn't turn and it was a very difficult day."

The other French star Sebastien Loeb, the nine times world champion, also made a bad start.

Driving in the rally in his native France as one of the races in his part-time contract with Hyundai, Loeb broke his suspension on the first stage and made improvised repairs. At the end of the day, he was ninth, almost than two-and-a-half minutes down.

"It's going better and better but for sure we lost a lot in the morning," Loeb said.

The race ends in Calvi on Sunday.