Welshman Elfyn Evans topped the times on the traditional Shakedown stage at the 2020 Rally Guanajuato México on Thursday morning.
The Toyota Yaris WRC driver carded a fourth run of 3min 41.8sec to top the session by 0.6 seconds from Belgian Thierry Neuville in his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. Sébastien Ogier was third quickest with a third run of 3min 42.5sec.
The 5.51km stage at Llano Grande was a final opportunity for teams to discover an optimum car set-up for the three days of gravel stages that follow from Friday morning.
With pre-event testing banned outside Europe for the Priority 1 drivers, the morning’s short stage also marked the first opportunity that the likes of Elfyn Evans, Sébastien Ogier, Ott Tänak, Esapekka Lappi and Kalle Rovanperä had to drive their new cars in earnest in México after their pre-season team switches.
Evans posted the target time of 3min 50.7sec on his first competitive stage in the Toyota and was 3.2 seconds quicker than Neuville and 1.9 up on team-mate Ogier. Rovanperä stopped the clocks 0.7 seconds behind the Welshman and Lappi slotted into third.
But Tänak was 11 seconds slower than Evans after clipping a small tree stump and leaving the road. Evans led until Teemu Suninen carded a time of 3min 50.1sec and Dani Sordo slotted into third with a time of 3min 50.7sec but Gus Greensmith stalled on the start line.
After the first pass, Evans said: “I just need to give everything we have got. That is all we can do. We know its not going to be super easy.”
Thierry Neuville added: “We have discover if the new aero will help. I was surprised by the lack of grip on the shakedown.”
World Champion Ogier said: “It feels strange at the moment. The whole world is in a critical situation and it feels strange to race.”
Esapekka Lappi said: “It’s nice to be in a warm place after Monte and Sweden. You know there will be a power loss on the engine. But it felt quite okay to be honest.”
Tänak explained his opening indescretion: “It is feeling okay but I had a spin. Obviously not focused enough.”
First pass winner Suninen added: “The feeling was pretty good. There are still places where I cam improve and get a better rhythm. Let’s try to improve now before we get the longer holidays…”
Rovanperä set the fastest run of 3min 44.6sec on his second pass, as Suninen returned to service and Neuville moved ahead of Evans into second. Tänak then recorded the quickest pass of 3min 43.0sec, as Sordo moved up to second.
After a return to service in León, Ogier posted the quickest time of 3min 42.5sec on the third pass with Neuville moving up to third until Evans, once again, delivered when it mattered and matched Ogier’s time. The Welshman ran even faster on his fourth run to top the standings again.
2020 Rally Guanajuato México – Shakedown stage results (WRC cars only):
1. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Scott Martin (GBR) Toyota Yaris WRC 3min 41.8sec
2. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3min 42.4sec
3. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Toyota Yaris WRC 3min 42.5sec
4. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN)/Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC 3min 43.0sec
5. Ott Tänak (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3min 43.0sec
6. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Carlos del Barrio (ESP) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3min 44.4sec
7. Teemu Suninen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC 3min 45.2sec
8. Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC 3min 46.0sec
9. Gus Greensmith (GBR)/Elliott Edmondson (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC 3min 46.8sec