The Hyundai driver appeared to lock up under braking on the incredibly slippery wet asphalt, littered with leaves and pine needles, and went off the road, 11.8km into the Isegami’s Tunnel stage (24.67km). Sordo’s i20N darted to left before swiping some trees as the car slid down an embankment.
Both driver and co-driver Candido Carrera were reported to be okay, but with the car in a precarious position organisers elected to red flag the stage, with only six cars completing the test.
Sordo retired from rally on the same stage last year when his car went up in flames.
The Hyundai driver wasn’t the only Rally1 competitor to hit trouble as home hero Takamoto Katsuta had a moment at the same corner as Sordo just minutes before the Spaniard.
Katsuta was setting the pace before he suffered a spin and damaged the radiator of his i20N. He managed to reach the stage end but under red flag conditions. He pulled off on the following road section to undergo repairs on his car.
M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux, on his return to Rally1 competition, also went off the road and failed to reach the stage end.
Photo by: Toyota Racing
Elfyn Evans, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Prior to the stoppage, Toyota’s Elfyn Evans, starting second on the road, produced a stunning drive in hugely challenging conditions to post the benchmark time to move from ninth to the overall lead.
Evans was 32.3s faster than world champion Kalle Rovanpera, who faced the worst of the road conditions.
“These conditions are the most difficult I have seen all year, it is even more difficult than Central Europe,” said Rovanpera.
“There are so many pine needles on the road and its definitely going to clean for the later cars.”
Evans ultimately took the stage win by 4.0s from Toyota team-mate Sebastien Ogier to lead the rally by 3.8s from the Frenchman. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville was third fastest on the stage to climb to third overall (+15.9s).
Stage two continued after a lengthy stoppage.