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WRC Rally Japan

WRC Japan: Evans extends lead after Ogier penalty

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans will take a significant Rally Japan lead into Saturday after his World Rally Championship team-mate Sebastien Ogier picked up a penalty.

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

Evans completed the day’s six stages with a 1m49.9s advantage over eight-time world champion Ogier, who incurred a one-minute penalty before the last stage of the day. The Frenchman checked out of the final service six minutes late following a repair to the door of his GR Yaris which was damaged during stage five.

Evans started Friday in ninth but leapt into the rally lead following an impressive display in extreme wet conditions across the morning stages to lead Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville by 26.0s.

Neuville reduced that deficit to 10.5s before crashing out of the rally on stage six which allowed Evans to move into a commanding lead over Ogier.

“It didn’t feel so great this morning, I felt like I was losing a minute but clearly the others were having similar sensations. It can sometimes happen like that,” said Evans.

Ogier’s late penalty dropped the Toyota driver into the clutches of team-mate and two-time world champion Kalle Rovanpera. The Finn faced the worst of the conditions starting first on the road but he was able to build his pace across the afternoon to end the day 2m06.6s adrift and only 16.7s behind Ogier.

WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen made the most of strong start to Friday to finish fourth, 3m00.2s adrift. The Norwegian produced a series of impressive drives, although his elevated position was partly down to the much-improved visibility in his Rally2 Skoda in comparison to the Rally1 cars that all suffered from misted up windscreens.

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1, Andreas Mikkelsen, Torstein Eriksen, Toksport WRT 3 Skoda Fabia Evo Rally2

Photo by: M-Sport

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1, Andreas Mikkelsen, Torstein Eriksen, Toksport WRT 3 Skoda Fabia Evo Rally2

Gregoire Munster held fifth, 4.8s shy of Mikkelsen with Skoda WRC2 driver Nikolay Gryazin in sixth.

Esapekka Lappi brought the sole remaining Hyundai home in seventh (+3m44.3s) ahead of M-Sport’s Ott Tanak (+4m42.8s) and the recovering Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta, who claimed three afternoon stage wins after losing time to a crash on stage two that damaged his GR Yaris’ radiator.

M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux and Hyundai’s Dani Sordo retired from the day after crashing at the same corner on stage two.

The final stage of the day belonged to Lappi, as the Finn managed to edge Ogier in their Toyota Stadium super special head-to-head by a 1.0s margin.

Katsuta matched Ogier’s time in the side-by-side super special after seeing off rally leader Evans in their duel. The Japanese driver closed to within 25.1s of eighth placed Tanak.

After fighting electrical issues with his Ford Puma across the afternoon, Tanak ended a challenging Friday with a 0.1s victory over Rovanpera in the super special.

Eight stages await the crews on Saturday.

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