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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Evans extends lead with victory in sight

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After profitable seven of Saturday’s eight phases, Evans recorded two extra stage wins to increase his result in 38.2s over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta edged Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen to carry third by 6.3s heading into the rally’s remaining stage this afternoon. Katsuta’s group boss and three-time Finland winner Jari-Matti Latvala maintained fifth general on his WRC comeback for Toyota.

Crews confronted utterly dry circumstances for the primary time this weekend forward of Sunday morning’s first stage, Moksi-Sahloinen (16.56km), and it was right here the place Evans prolonged his already wholesome rally lead.

The Welshman admitted he wasn’t “as dedicated” within the check in comparison with yesterday given his place, however his tempo nonetheless yielded his eighth stage win of the occasion so far.

Evans reached the stage finish a second quicker than Suninen, who gambled on operating lighter with none spare wheels, to take the struggle to third-placed Katsuta within the battle for the ultimate podium.

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On this stage it appeared to work because the Finn took 1.9s out of his rival to chop the deficit to 4.5s with three phases remaining.

Neuville elected to cruise via the stage to protect his tyres for the rally ending Energy Stage, whereas Latvala was solely 9.4s adrift in a check he claimed was “traditional” and one he had been “ready for” on his WRC comeback.

Latvala was even nearer to the present crop of WRC regulars when the crews accomplished stage 20 (Himos-Jamsa, 9.26km), the primary move via the Energy Stage. The Finn was 5.4s shy and only one.2s slower than rally chief Evans, though the 2021 Finland winner opted for a “regular” run.

All eyes are on the battle for third which took one other twist as Katsuta responded by profitable the stage, his second quickest time of the rally.

Teemu Suninen, Mikko Markkula, Hyundai World Rally Workforce Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The Japanese was 1.3s quicker than Neuville however crucially 2.7s faster than Suninen, who was lucky to wrestle his i20 N again from operating extensive right into a ditch at a quick left-hander. Neuville’s effort did briefly deliver the hole to Evans again all the way down to 33.7s.

The only real remaining M-Sport-Ford pushed by Pierre-Louis Loubet, who rejoined the rally yesterday after Friday’s crash, seemed to be again on top of things within the stage. The Frenchman was pressured to run in highway mode within the earlier check attributable to an engine challenge.

Nonetheless, the problem appeared to re-emerge as Loubet drove slowly via the morning’s check stage 21 to guard his Puma for the Energy Stage. Loubet was 1m41.9s slower than stage winner Evans, who notched up his ninth quickest time.

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Evans was 4.5s quicker than Neuville, whereas Suninen managed to pip Katsuta by 0.9s to arrange a grandstand end within the struggle for third.

Oliver Solberg maintained his lead of the WRC2 class in sixth general forward of Sami Pajari. Adrien Fourmaux, Nikolay Gryazin and Andreas Mikkelsen accomplished the highest 10 forward of this afternoon’s remaining stage.

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