The Welshman confounded all the pundits by finishing the first leg of the CORSICA linea – Tour de Corse in the lead from Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville. The two ‘Sebs’ had a much more difficult day as Ogier had to cope with handling issues on his car while Loeb made a mistake at the very start of the rally.
Summary of Friday 29th March
Elfyn Evans stunned his rivals in the first stage of the day by setting the fastest time. Behind the Team M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver the stars of the WRC blotted their copybook. Sébastien Ogier spun, Kris Meeke damaged the front of his Toyota Yaris while Sébastien Loeb bent a steering arm on the rear of his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC following a minor off. In SS2, Meeke went pedal to the metal and clinched the best time. Ott Tanak even if he wasn’t the quickest was a model of consistency and took the lead of the rally. The Estonian drove home his advantage and claimed his first stage win in SS3. Evans dominated the afternoon loop and reclaimed the lead with two fastest times in SS4 and 5. In the final special he was hindered by Meeke (slowed after an off in SS5) and lost precious seconds. But fortunately for the Welshman Race Control gave him the same time as Tänak, and he arrived back in Bastia in first place ahead of the Estonian driver and Thierry Neuville. This evening, Dani Sordo and Teemu Suninen completed the top 5.
In the French camp
The first leg was a particularly difficult one for the French contingent. Sébastien Ogier finished the day in sixth place as he found the handling of his Citroën C3 WRC (understeer) very difficult to cope with. Sébastien Loeb wasn’t any luckier as he went off very soon after the start this morning and lost two minutes almost from the get-go. The driver from Alsace was much more at ease in the afternoon and fought his way back up to eighth place.
It was a very different story in WRC 2 as two French drivers monopolised the first places. Éric Camilli dominated his rivals head and shoulders today with six fastest times in the six stages and the former Rallye Jeunes FFSA specialist finished in front of the reigning double French champion, Yoann Bonato. Following his victory at Le Touquet two weeks ago in the opening round of the French Championship, Nicolas Ciamin is just shy of the podium, 3.5 seconds behind Nicolas Gryazin.
On the other hand, Adrien Fourmaux had a more difficult day. Trying to avoid a dirty kerb in SS4, the young member of the Équipe de France FFSA Rallye moved off the best line and hit a pavement damaging the left-hand front and rear wheels of his Ford Fiesta R5. The whole M-Sport Ford team is working flat out so that he can restart tomorrow.
Programme Saturday 30th March
SS7-10 Cap Corse (25,62 km)
First car at 7h38-14h38
Start from Luri on a wide road so the drivers can go pedal to the metal on the very quick climb up to the spectacular crossing of the Santa-Lucia pass (381m), after which they swing towards the western side of the Cap via a technical downhill section. There’s a radical change after Pino as the second half of the stage takes place on a very narrow twisty road that gives a magnificent panoramic view of les Agriates. After crossing the Barrettali and Canari villages the crews will reach the finish via a final hairpin.
SS 8-11 Désert des Agriates (14.45 km)
First car at 10h14-16h08
Start from the exit of the Casta village in the heart of Les Agriates on a fast wide road that crosses an uninhabited maquis 300m above sea level. After crossing the Vezzo pass a quick downhill section brings the cars towards Pietra Monetta. As the road is very wide the best drivers can make the most of their lines to gain a few precious seconds.
SS 9-12 Castagniccia (47.18 km)
First car at 12h32-17h14
Start at the exit from Ponte-Leccia followed by a very quick climb to the Riscamone and Serna passes before turning off onto a narrow tricky road that crosses Castello-di-Rostino and Bisinchi. The passage of the cars in front of the Campile church, easily accessible from Barchetta, will be one of the highlights of the 2019 Tour. It’s followed by an uphill section via Crocicchia leading to the Saint-Antoine pass after which they continue along the mountainside to Piano on a new road, which the Tour de Corse has probably never used before. After Piano and Silvareccio, comes a change of direction to the San Agostino pass and the final uphill section in the muddy woodlands to the finish in Loreto di Casinca.
The highlights Saturday 30th March
Bastia Poretta (Rally Village)
06h05: crews start
12h32: crews return for service
18h34: crews return for service
19h00: meet the crews on the Michelin podium
21h00: free concert with Sumenta Nova
06h00-23h30: free access for everybody, special stages broadcast live on a giant screen, musical entertainment, merry-go-rounds and attractions, games and competitions, tasting of local products …
Bastia (Place Saint-Nicolas)
20h00: autograph session and end-of-stage podium