“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.