Rallye Monte-Carlo: Evans sets the pace on Friday morning as Tanak crashes out

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Elfyn Evans snatched the Rallye Monte-Carlo lead from Hyundai's Thierry Neuville after dominating Friday morning’s loop of three stages around Gap, while reigning World Rally Champion Ott Tänak crashed out.

Tänak’s crash was the biggest drama of this first full day of action, when the Estonian rolled his i20 Coupe WRC halfway through SS4 as he was challenging for a top three position. He and his co-driver Martin Järveoja got out of the car on their own following the incident and were taken to hospital for precautionary checks.

Tänak’s team mate Neuville had led after yesterday’s opening pair of night stages but the Belgian was overhauled this morning by Toyota’s debutant Evans, who led by 8.9 seconds as the cars reached the midday service, having won all three Friday morning stages.

The asphalt was generally dry and clean, with none of the snow seen on SS2 yesterday, although some crews were affected by rain during the final stage this morning.

Neuville still managed to keep pace with Evans and finished Friday morning in second, while Sébastien Ogier is less than a second behind in third on his first rally with a Toyota. The local hero is ahead of another well-known Rallye Monte-Carlo master, Sébastien Loeb, who however is more than 30 seconds further back. Ogier promised that he had more in hand but was just concentrating on finding out more about his new Yaris WRC today.

This makes two Toyotas and two Hyundais in the top four so far, while their closest challenger is Esapekka Lappi in fifth, driving M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta. Lappi recovered from the overheating issues that were affecting all the Fiestas yesterday but still didn’t feel so confident. His team mate Gus Greensmith was another retirement after going off the road on the first stage this morning.

M-Sport’s third factory driver Teemu Suninen is still in the rally, albeit far down the order in 22nd position.

In sixth and seventh overall are two young Toyota drivers, with 19-year-old Kalle Rovanperä leading the team’s Japanese protégé Takamoto Katsuta, who will complete a partial WRC learning programme this year.

They are classified ahead of Eric Camilli, the FIA WRC3 leader - and fastest non World Rally Car - in eighth overall.

He leads the R5 contingent ahead of FIA WRC2 leader Ole-Christian Veiby, officially representing Hyundai in ninth overall with the NG i20. Frenchman Nicolas Ciamin rounds out the top 10.

This afternoon, the cars are tackling three more stages as a repeat of this morning, before returning to final service in Gap.