Evans thrives at wintry Monte Carlo

Gap (France) (AFP) –

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Welshman Elfyn Evans played a cool hand to push his Toyota into a narrow lead at the Monte Carlo Rally on Friday negotiating black-ice, snow, rain and mist in ever-changing but constantly dreadful conditions.

Day two of the season opening rally got underway at 06h10 (0510) in darkness in order to comply with the 18h00 curfew in France imposed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Local resident and Evans' teammate Sebastien Ogier set the fastest times in stages three, four and five.

But Evans, the man Ogier pipped to the overall title last season, powered past the seven-time world champion when he punctured in stage six.

Ogier was angry to be trailing Evans.

"We knew from the off that these tyres are not the right ones. It's such a shame we didn't have the right ones with us because it made everything a bit of a lottery," he said.

Evans wasn't entirely happy with his lead either.

"It was hard to judge the pace, I felt too slow in some places and maybe too quick in others. I backed off a little too much in the shiny sections," Evans said before he hit Ogier on the sixth special while he repaired his puncture.

Evans thrived in the rain and ice to take a 20 second lead, with visibility poor in the winding hill roads where a litany of cautionary tales have been written at previous editions of this iconic event.

"I was too careful and wasn't confident enough. I'm happy with the standings but not my performance," said the Briton.

With air back in his tyres Ogier rounded off the day's action winning the seventh special to sit just 7.4seconds behind Evans at the midway point.

Ogier had also struggled with brake issues on Thursday that had left him lagging in fifth overnight almost 17sec off early leader Ott Tanak.

"I needed to react after yesterday, having brakes on the car is helping!" he said.

Tanak , the 2019 champion, is third at 17.9sec.

The race climbs higher Saturday in the low Alps in the Monaco back-country with snow likely to play a part in the 58km and three specials before the action wraps up Sunday in Monaco itself.

This rally is the first of 12 races in the world rally championships and organisers have said they have several potential back-up sites ready if they are forced to cancel any races.