ERC Corsica: Stephane Sarrazin leads Bryan Bouffier on rally return

Stephane Sarrazin leads Bryan Bouffier by just 1.7 seconds after a gripping first day of the European Rally Championship finale in Corsica

Sarrazin and Bouffier swapped positions at the top of the field throughout the six stages on what turned out to be a day of attrition for the ERC field.

Toyota World Endurance Championship driver Sarrazin, making his first top level rally appearance of the season, won the first stage by 0.8s ahead of last year's Corsica winner Bouffier.

Sarrazin and Bouffier then shared the win on SS2 amid slightly bizarre scenes as Sarrazin lost a few seconds avoiding a cow that had strayed onto the course three miles from the finish.

Bouffier snatched the overall lead after taking victory on stage three as Sarrazin dropped 3.2s, struggling to push flat-out in the wet and humid conditions that remained throughout the day.

The lead changed hands again as Sarrazin took the honours on SS4, where Bouffier lost 17s to his rival after suffering a puncture just over three miles from the end of the stage.

That prompted a comeback charge from Bouffier, who reduced that gap to under 2s over the two stages that closed leg one.

ERC champion Esapekka Lappi, who had been steadily moving up the standings from an early seventh, was third after SS5 but crashed out on the final stage.

Craig Breen and Kajetan Kajetanowicz both failed in their quest to snatch second place in the championship from Sepp Wiegand, absent following his crash and fire in pre-rally testing.

Breen had been third overall after stage one but transmission difficulties cost him more than a minute on SS3 and then forced him to retire.

Kajetanowicz was out even earlier: retiring after SS1 when his Ford Fiesta R5 suffered a driveshaft failure.

Kevin Abbring ended up in third place overall in the remaining works Peugeot while Romain Dumas, making a special appearance in the Porsche 997 GT3 R-GT car, finished the day sixth.

LEADING POSITIONS AFTER SS6:

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