2021 Monte Carlo Rally: Evans leads after dramatic 2nd day

Rally News

Elfyn Evans leads for Toyota after an eventful day which saw three different drivers lead in just four stages

Elfyn Evans Toyota 2021 Monte Carlo Rally

Evans was the eventual leader of a day which saw three different drivers head the overall table

Grégory Lenormand / DPPI


The pendulum swung back and forth on Friday at the 2021 Monte Carlo Rally as the blue riband event saw three different overall leaders, with drivers battling against treacherous conditions.

Kalle Rovanperä, who had been so impressive on the opening day, experienced the full gamut of WRC emotions.

The young Finn led after the early SS3 night stage, but a problem with his car caused him to check in late for the start of SS4 and he was slapped with a 10sec time penalty.

He then shipped 18.5sec to Ogier, moving him down to fourth in the standings, 28.2sec behind the rally leader.

Rovanperä highlighted the disadvantage he had by not being the first car out on the stage.

“It was just really, really dirty,” the Finn said. “The guys in front have a much cleaner road so there is a lot of smooth gravel on the road for me where I can’t push.”

Sébastien Ogier then won SS4 and 5, pulling out an 11.3sec gap to assert himself at the top of the overall leader board.

Sebastien Ogier Toyota Monte Carlo Rally 2021

Ogier negotiates tricky conditions under cover of darkness on SS3

Grégory Lenormand / DPPI

The Frenchman had brake pedal issues causing him to tread carefully on the opening Thursday stages, but with newfound Friday confidence came speed.

“[I felt] much more confident than yesterday and with brakes of course it’s helping!” he said.

In addition to his added stopping power, Ogier ran first on the road, meaning he didn’t have to deal with dirt dragged on the stage by cars running ahead of him.

Evans had started ahead of the World Champion on Friday morning but soon found himself losing pace on the fourth and fifth stage. The Welshman admitted that Ogier’s local knowledge had served him.

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“This is probably a stage he knows quite well in this direction, I haven’t used it before,” Evans explained. “We were basically too careful on the shiny tar sections, it was quite difficult there, so not great.”

Ott Tänak, whose pace had been so impressive on the opening day, had a rather more muted Friday outing.

The Estonian was fifth, fourth and third on the three Friday morning stages, ultimately finding himself 24.8sec behind Ogier. Asked to explain his lack of pace, Tänak was at a loss.

“I don’t know. I can’t say I’m not trying! In some places you have some moments which you don’t expect at all, which tells me I don’t know everything that can happen.”

“Almost I saw the road from my side window – not how you drive on tarmac!”

Memories of his huge shunt on the 2020 Monte were revived when the Hyundai man suffered a heart-stopping slide on SS5, but Tänak saved it this time.

“It was not a little moment, that one I did not enjoy at all. Almost I saw the road from my side window – this is not how you normally drive on tarmac!

Thierry Neuville’s challenge was stymied by poor tyre selection. The Belgian plumped for three slicks and three studs whereas most competitor went for four of the former and two of the latter.

The result was a spin on SS5, losing him 28sec on that stage and meaning he then trailed the leader by 1min 02.7sec overall.

It was even worse for Dani Sordo, who chose the same tyres as Neuville and was straightforward in the verdict of his performance so far: “We don’t have the speed.”



Come SS6 and things changed again. Ogier was hit by a front left-puncture, with two resultant spins.

The Frenchman subsequently dropped 34.7sec, allowing team-mate Evans into the overall rally lead. Ogier was now third and Evans had a 23.4sec lead.

It’s very hard to know,” said Ogier when asked where he picked up the puncture. “We knew these tyres are very weak for punctures and unfortunately it happened already.”

Evans, steady as usual, took the stage win by 6.9sec from Tänak, but found the going tough.

“It was alright but gosh it was difficult!” he said. “Now the grip is changing much more extremely, we had good grip and then nothing at all.”

There were sage words from Tänak on the treacherous conditions, who had been the pace-setter on Thursday: “It was so tricky so not the place to be a hero.” Still, the Estonian’s careful driving netted him second on the stage and the same overall.

Things became even worse for young Rovanperä, who did a Kris Meeke-at-Mexico-circa-2017 by driving off into a field.

“There was a really muddy cut and I lost the car from the cut and we went into the field and had to reverse out, it took a lot of time.” explained the Finn.

With Rovanperä losing 47.6sec to Evans, Hyundai’s Neuville stepped in to claim third on the stage and fourth overall.

Dani Sordo started to find his form, setting a time which was 10.6sec off the lead, leaving him in a lonely but secure P6 overall.

Another man on the move was Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta, whose fifth place on the stage moved him up to 8th overall.

M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith suffered once again, describing the performance as “the worst of my career” as he lost 31.5sec to Evans on SS6 alone.



The results were turned on their head yet again come SS7.

A fired-up Ogier had a barnstorming run, taking 16sec out of Evans and finishing 1.3sec ahead of a resurgent Dani Sordo, who was continuing his resurgence.

The Spaniard looks more assured throughout the stage, finishing SS7 2nd ahead of Rovanperä, who seems to have experienced all the drama of a WRC season in two days. His time, 3.3sec off Ogier, on SS7 means the Finn now lies fourth overall, 53.1sec of Evans.

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“We need to fight back,” said the bullish Finn. “I did a stupid mistake but for sure it was difficult this loop. I just tried a bit too much in the beginning but then I knew the limit.”

Toyota’s homegrown Takamoto Katsuta continued to turn his Thursday performance around and gained further ground. Fourth on SS7 cemented his eighth overall, behind Andreas Mikkelsen, absolutely dominating WRC2 in his Skoda.

“This one I wanted to show what I can do but still I am missing some confidence so I can push more,” Katsuda said.

Evans ended up a disappointed sixth on SS7. The Toyota driver suffered a damaged wheel, meaning he had to fit one studded tyre to go with his three slicks. An understandably cautious drive lost him 16sec to Ogier, but he still finds himself in the overall lead, the Welshman having a 7.4sec cushion.

“I was too careful in some places,” Evans commented on his performance. “The car has a mind of its own sometimes, not specifically this car but the conditions. It’s a great time from him [Ogier].”

Tänak fared even worse, setting seventh fastest time. “I have no visibility in the screen so it gets complicated then.” the Estonian explained. The Hyundai driver is still third overall.

Gus Greensmith 2021 Monte Carlo Rally

Greensmith continues to struggle

Grégory Lenormand / DPPI

His team-mate Neuville is current fifth, happy enough in the circumstances. The confidence being gained by the Belgian as he got used to new co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe has begun to tell.

“To be honest that was a really nice stage for us,” Neuville said. “Martijn did an incredible job and I was more confident as well.”

Mikkelsen and several others in WRC2 had to avoid Pierre-Louis Loubet’s Hyundai, the Korean manufacturer’s junior driver having locked up at a hairpin and gone straight into a rock face. His i20 came off worse, failing to finish the stage.

The overall leaderboard after seven stages is Elfyn Evans, Sébastien Ogier, Ott Tänak, Kalle Rovanperä, Thierry Nueville and Dani Sordo. Gus Greensmith is 10th.

With heavy snow forecast, things are expected to get even more difficult for drivers on Saturday.