Evans on top in Portugal WRC shakedown

Elfyn Evans was fastest in shakedown at the Portugal WRC round

Elfyn Evans was fastest in shakedown at the Portugal WRC round

Elfyn Evans has emerged as the early driver to beat at the Rally of Portugal, the World Rally Championship leader setting the pace during shakedown for the fifth event of the season.

Driving a factory Toyota Yaris Rally1 Hybrid, Evans set a best time of 2:53.4s on the 4.61km stage to edge out Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi and M-Sport Ford driver Ott Tanak.

“Portugal is a nice rally but in recent years it has also become quite a rough one,” Evans said.

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“There are sections which are really fast and flowing and fun to drive, and others where it’s a challenge to look after the tyres and the car. It’s definitely a mixed rally in that sense, but it’s one that I enjoy.

“We will have the job of opening the road [on Friday’s first leg], but I’m sure that is something that is going to swing back and forth between the drivers a few times over the next rallies.

“We will just have to try and maximise our performance in the loose conditions we will face on Friday and see what’s possible.”

While Evans set his best time on his second shakedown run, Lappi waited until his fourth pass to clock a 2:53.5s best. It was a performance that came on the back of a minor scare after his first run, which he completed with smoke coming from inside the rear of his i20 N.

Tanak’s fastest effort was a 2:53.9s although he had been quickest of all after the first pass.

Dani Sordo (Hyundai), Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota) and Pierre-Louis Loubet (M-Sport Ford) rounded out the top six as less than a second covered the top five drivers.

Behind world champion Kalle Rovanpera (seventh) and Thierry Neuville (eighth), Oliver Solberg was fastest of the WRC2 drivers in ninth with his Toksport Skoda team-mate Gus Greensmith 10th despite the Briton hitting a bank on his first run.

The real Rally of Portugal action begins on Friday with eight stages over a competitive distance of 121.25km scheduled.

The opening leg consists of three stages run twice – Lousã, Góis and Arganil – plus a single run through Mortágua and a new street stage in Figueira da Foz, which offers views of the Mondego River and the Atlantic Ocean. However, with no midday service and only a tyre fitting zone, keeping out of trouble will be key.

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