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WRC Rally Japan

WRC Japan: Evans closes out Saturday with comfortable lead

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans remains on course for a third World Rally Championship win of the season after closing out Saturday with a lead of more than a minute at Rally Japan.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Evans took a commanding 1m49.9s lead over team-mate Sebastien Ogier into the day’s eight stages after starring in treacherous wet conditions on Friday.

The Welsh driver conceded time to Ogier across Saturday’s stage but will head into Sunday’s final six stages with a margin of 1m15.0s.

Toyota remained on course to secure a podium lockout on home soil as two-time world champion Kalle Rovanpera ended the day in third, 1m40.6s adrift.

The sole remaining Hyundai of Esapekka Lappi completed the day in fourth (+3m09.3s) after starting Saturday in seventh.

M-Sport’s Ott Tanak managed to extend the gap over sixth-placed Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta to 14.9s in the day’s final stage.

WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen, Gregoire Munster, Nikolay Gryazin and Kajetan Kajetanowicz completed the top 10.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Lappi triumphed in the third pass through the side-by side Toyota Stadium Super Special that hosted the day’s final stage. The Finn comfortably eclipsed rally leader Evans by 2.9s.

“It’s not normal that I am good at these super specials, but this weekend I think 22 super specials would be good for me,” said Lappi, who has starred in the previous two passes through the stage.

Tanak managed to defeat the wet tyre-shod Rovanpera in their duel to clock the second fastest time, 1.5s shy of Lappi’s benchmark.

An emotional Katsuta delighted the packed crowd by beating Ogier in their head-to-head by 1.0s.

“Thanks to all of the fans. There are so many people in the stadium and for sure, I want to push tomorrow as much as I can until the very end,” said Katsuta.

Crews will face 84.08km of stages on Sunday.

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