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Toyota's new boy Evans storms to the front

 

Elfyn Evans

Elfyn Evans made a storming start to Rally Sweden, leading the way after the first day on just his second start for his new Toyota team.

The Welshman, who emulated his father Gwyndaf by winning the Ulster Rally and clinching the British Championship in 2016, carried a lead of eight seconds over the Hyundai of World champion Ott Tanak into today's second leg, with another member of the new-look Toyota team, Kalle Rovanpera, third.

Evans, teenager Rovanpera and six-times World champion Sebastien Ogier make up the 2020 Toyota squad following Tanak's decision to switch to Hyundai after winning the World title triggered the exit of Ulsterman Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala.

And although it was Thierry Neuville who won for Hyundai in Monte Carlo last month, with Ogier second, Evans was hard on their heels and he carried the momentum forward into yesterday's leg of the Swedish event which has been shortened because of a lack of snow.

He dominated proceedings in the morning, winning two of the first four stages to take an eight-second lead over his team-mate Rovanpera, but the young Finn spun and stalled his Yaris at a hairpin in stage five, allowing Tanak to up move into second.

Ogier made it three Toyotas in the top four, with former Circuit of Ireland winner Esapekka Lappi, Evans's replacement at M-Sport Ford, in fifth and Neuville completing the top six.

Craig Breen, drafted into the Hyundai team in place of Sebastien Ogier, was in seventh, two seconds behind Neuville.

But there was huge disappointment for Jon Armstrong, the World virtual rally champion from Fermanagh. Back this year in the real rally world to challenge for the Junior WRC series, Armstrong suffered a heavy crash on the fourth stage.

He and co-driver Noel O'Sullivan did not suffer any serious injuries but were taken to hospital for a precautionary check.

Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnston, partnering 18-year-old rising star Oliver Solberg, was in 16th place, third in the WRC3 category in their R5 Skoda.

Belfast Telegraph