Evans tops WRC Chile shakedown but plays down early pace

Elfyn Evans was fastest in WRC Rally Chile shakedown. Image: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Elfyn Evans was fastest in WRC Rally Chile shakedown. Image: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Elfyn Evans has played down the significance of his fastest time on shakedown for Rally Chile this morning.

The British driver needs a big haul of points from the South American event to keep his fading hopes of winning the World Rally Championship alive with a 33-point deficit to Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanpera to overcome.

He was fastest through the 5.75km shakedown stage in a time of 3:59.6s, a full 0.5s quicker than 2022 world champion Rovanpera.

Following the run, Evans said, “Of course it’s an okay start but it doesn’t mean a great deal to be honest, there’s so much variation in the stages out there that [shakedown] doesn’t really count for a lot.

“The stage was quite damp, which could be different to the rest of the rally as we are expecting the event to be drier so the cleaning will effect things a lot more.

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“The target is to always do as well as possible but we’ll have to see how extreme the road cleaning is on Friday.

“It could be quite detrimental as the weekend pans out and the cleaning could also be high on Saturday so we’ll have to see what’s possible on Friday. If we have a good day, then we can think more about it.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet, on his first visit to Chile, was third-fastest in his M-Sport Ford Puma, one place ahead of Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen, who finished fifth on Rally Chile in 2019.

Takamoto Katsuta was fifth-quickest in the third factory Yaris, one place ahead of Hyundai’s team leader Thierry Neuville. Puma driver Ott Tanak was seventh-fastest, with Esapekka Lappi eighth after a fuel pump issue struck his i20.

Gregoire Munster beat M-Sport team-mate and fellow Rally1 rookie, Chile’s Alberto Heller, to the ninth-fastest time as Emil Lindholm edged Gus Greensmith to the fastest time in WRC2.

Following his first on-event experience of his Puma Rally1, Luxembourg driver Munster said, “It was unbelievable; what you expect, it’s just 10 times better.

“The corners arrive so fast but on the other hand the car is just so efficient. You turn, it turns; you go on the throttle, and it just goes as quick as you can imagine out of the corners.

“It’s actually not so difficult to handle but when you want to get this last per cent of the pace, that’s where it starts to be complicated.

“It’s just an amazing experience and it will be a big smile for me all weekend.”

The ceremonial start in the city of Los Angeles takes place on Thursday evening (local time), with the first of 16 stages, the 19.77km Pulperia test, due to begin on Friday morning.

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