Evans leads Rally of Finland as Ogier hit by helmet penalty

·3-min read
Fast show: Elfyn Evans steers his Toyota into the lead in Finland (AFP/Jussi Nukari)

Elfyn Evans stormed into the lead of the Rally of Finland on Saturday as Sebastien Ogier, chasing an eighth world title, ended the day in fifth place despite being penalised -- for a loose helmet.

Evans, behind the wheel of a Toyota, began the day in third place but swept four stages in the morning to take a firm grip on the event, widely regarded as the fastest on the circuit.

The Welsh flyer leads Hyundai's Ott Tanak, who took three stages in the afternoon, by 9.1sec.

That was enough for the Estonian to snatch second place from Irish teammate Craig Breen who is almost 20 seconds behind Evans.

"It was a good morning for us and I had a good feeling behind the wheel. We just tried to keep a good pace," said Evans.

Finland's Esapekka Lappi, in a private Toyota entry, is fourth with world champion Ogier, in another factory Toyota, at 1min 23.7sec off the pace.

Ogier was seventh at the start of the day but benefitted from the retirements of young Finnish teammate Kalle Rovanpera and Belgium's Thierry Neuville.

However, French star Ogier was later handed a one-minute time penalty for not fastening his helmet strap correctly, stewards said.

He committed the same offence in Monte Carlo in January and, as such, stewards issued a time penalty as well as fining the Toyota driver 800 euros ($928).

"Ogier told stewards that he had no way of explaining why the strap would have come undone during the stage," said the official WRC website.

"He said there was no rush to fasten the helmet at the stage start and it was unlike the incident in Monte Carlo where he simply forgot to fasten the helmet strap.

"He also added that there was no way he would only half-fasten the helmet; it was either done properly or not at all."

Four more stages in Finland will be raced on Sunday where Ogier will at least hope to collect points in the power stage before his next realistic chance of wrapping up the title comes in Spain later this month.

Ogier started the rally with a 44-point championship lead over Evans and 50 ahead of Neuville.

Standings:

1. Elfyn Evans - Scott Martin (GBR/Toyota) 1 hr 57:46.7 mins, 2. Ott Tanak - Martin Järveoja (EST/Hyundai) at 9.1, 3. Craig Breen - Paul Nagle (IRL/Hyundai) 19.5, 4. Esapekka Lappi- Janne Ferm (FIN/Toyota) 44.8, 5. Sebastien Ogier - Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Toyota) 2:23.7, 6. Gus Greensmith - Chris Patterson (GBR-IRL/M-Sport Ford) 4:16.9, 7. Adrien Fourmaux - Alexandre Coria (FRA/Ford Fiesta) 5:31.5, 8. Teemu Sunninen-Mikko Markkula (FIN/Volkswagen/WRC2) 8:21.4

Stage winners: Evans 6 (SS6, SS7, SS8, SS9, SS10, SS14), Tanak 6 (SS3, SS4, SS11, SS12, SS13, SS15), Breen 2 (SS2, SS5), Katsuta 1 (SS1)

Retirements: Takamoto Katsuta - Aaron Johnston (JPN-IRL/Toyota), Kalle Rovanpera-Jonne Halttunen (FIN/Toyota), Thierry Neuville - Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL/Hyundai)

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