M-Sport fight back in Wales
Wales Rally GB
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans fought back as the crews faced one of the toughest days at Wales Rally GB. Finding their form and posting some impressive stage times, the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs find themselves in fourth and seventh place with the opportunity for further gains going into tomorrow’s final day.
As one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s classic events, the Welsh fixture never fails to deliver a challenge and today’s route offered one of the most challenging days of the season.
Heading into the morning service at five in the morning, the crews then made their way through seven stages and 109.39 competitive kilometres without service. As torrential rain battered the speed tests south of the service park a number of experienced crews fell by the wayside but Tänak and Evans rose to the challenge.
Having made some set-up changes during last night’s service, Tänak and co-driver Raigo Mõlder were reaping the rewards. Regularly posting top-four stage times the pairing reduced the gap to the leaders and set the fastest time through a fan-packed Chirk Castle (SS13).
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt were also upping their pace. The local hero was the fastest man through the second split section of Dyfi (SS9) – a full second up on the reigning World Champion – and went on to post the third fastest time through the first pass of Dyfnant (SS11).
If the day stages weren’t challenge enough, two night stages encompassing a second pass of Dyfnant and Aberhirnant closed today’s action. Treacherous in the light, the cover of darkness really separated the men from the boys and Evans proved what could have been were it not for yesterday’s unfortunate puncture.
Setting the fourth fastest time through Dyfant 2 (SS14), the Welshman was also the second fastest man through the second pass of Aberhirnant 2 (SS15) – reinforcing how impressive he can be when the conditions are especially tough.
With some tricky speed tests forming the final day of competition, it remains all to play for and the M-Sport duo will be keeping the pressure on as they look to finish the season with a solid result.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, Eric Camilli and the Ford Fiesta R5 were continuing to perform strongly. Enthralled in an intense battle for victory, the Frenchman secured another five stage wins and extended his lead to an impressive 35 seconds on his Welsh debut.
Ott Tänak (4th) said:
“Today has been quite okay and a big improvement from yesterday. We made some changes to the set-up overnight and that gave me a lot more confidence and I felt as though I could get a lot more speed.
“We managed to secure fourth place and since then it’s just been about maintaining that position. The conditions have been really crazy and we didn’t want to stay there in the forest so we took it steady and actually managed to extend our advantage over Dani [Sordo]. It’s looking okay for the moment so we just need to keep this rhythm going into tomorrow.”
Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“I feel as though it’s been a pretty good performance from us today. We didn’t have the best run through Gartheiniog [SS7 and SS9], but apart from that we’ve been the best of the rest behind the leading pack. It’s been a solid performance and we had a pretty decent run through the dark stages this evening [SS14 and SS15]. There’s all to play for tomorrow so we’ll push on and see what further gains we can make.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen a much better day from both drivers with some really encouraging times. It was nice to see Ott [Tänak] set the fastest time in Chirk Castle [SS13] and Elfyn [Evans] put in a fantastic second fastest time through the final night stage [SS15]. Like we saw in Corsica, he seems to really excel in the difficult conditions.
“Ott currently holds a strong fourth place and he’s been able to take time out of Dani [Sordo, in fifth] throughout much of the day. There’s a big gap to the podium, but we’ll keep the pressure on. This is Wales Rally GB – one of the most challenging events of the year – and as we’ve already seen, anything can happen.
“Elfyn too has been consistently taking time out of both Hayden [Paddon] and Dani. It will be difficult to catch both of them tomorrow, but we’ll certainly keep the pressure on and two cars in the top-five would be a solid result on home soil.
“In the WRC 2 category, we’ve seen yet another strong performance from the young Frenchman – Eric Camilli. Proving how competitive the Ford Fiesta R5 is, he’s set five fastest times and extended his lead to more than 30 seconds which is extremely impressive on what is his first taste of these exceptionally difficult stages.”
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