Thierry Neuville & Elfyn Evans tied for lead on Croatia Rally

Thierry Neuville & Elfyn Evans tied for lead on Croatia Rally

Friday Review

The battle is well and truly raging at Croatia Rally after FIA World Rally Championship frontrunners Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans ended day one level on times.


There was nothing to separate the two drivers after eight treacherous stages totalling 120km in the hills west of the capital city Zagreb. However, Neuville, who entered this fourth round of the season with a six-point lead over Welshman Evans, was left to rue missed opportunities.


Neuville won four of the day’s first five asphalt speed tests, building a 10.1sec advantage. However, the Belgian driver's efforts were thwarted when his Hyundai i20 N struck a rock in SS6 and sustained front right tyre damage costing around 10sec.


Toyota GR Yaris driver Evans seized the lead by winning the following stage from Jaškovo to Mali Modruš Potok. Nonetheless, a late resurgence from Neuville in the finale saw both drivers finish the day on equal footing, with Sébastien Ogier completing the podium just 6.6sec behind.


"We are really disappointed [about the damaged tyre] because it’s something that couldn’t have been avoided," Neuville admitted. "I did what I could, but it was not a great day for us."


Muddy conditions, and even flurries of snow, led to changeable grip levels with Ogier, running sixth on the road, one of the worst-hit by dirt being dragged onto the road.


Despite encountering a slow puncture in SS1 and being caught in a localised rain shower in SS5, the Frenchman's strong performance in SS8 propelled him back into contention.


Anticipating wet weather on Saturday, Ogier remarked: "Tomorrow is the start of another rally, I think – much slower and much slippier."


Ott Tänak ended 41.1sec adrift of the lead in fourth overall. After noting that his Hyundai felt "nervous" in the morning, the Estonian enjoyed a more consistent afternoon and edged out Adrien Fourmaux’s M-Sport Ford Puma by 11.6sec.


Toyota hotshot Takamoto Katsuta claimed sixth place ahead of Hyundai's Andreas Mikkelsen, who lost time in the morning after overshooting a junction. Grégoire Munster was eighth. 


Citroën pair supreme in WRC2 on Friday in Croatia

In ninth and tenth overall, DG Competition pairing Yohan Rossel and Nikolay Gryazin were in a class of their own, opening a commanding lead of more than two minutes over the remainder of the WRC2 field in their Citroën C3 Rally2.


Gryazin, making just his second WRC start in a Citroën C3 Rally2, set the tone early by going 10.8sec faster than team-mate Rossel on the rally’s opening test, leaving his rivals playing catch-up over the next seven stages.


He would complete Friday with seven stage wins, whilst Rossel, also on his second start of the season, claimed one stage win and is well-placed to match his Rallye Monte-Carlo podium finish, 31.1sec behind Gryazin.


Rallye Monte-Carlo runner-up Pepe López is making his Croatian debut this weekend and, despite his limited knowledge of the broken asphalt stages, the Spaniard positioned his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 comfortably in the third spot on the podium. He ended day one 20.1sec clear of Nicolas Ciamin, who is locked in a see-saw battle with fifth-placed Lauri Joona.


FIA Rally Star Jürgenson rapid to dominate WRC3 and Junior WRC

FIA Rally Star driver Romet Jürgenson was the cream of the crop in WRC3, building a sizeable buffer whilst also topping the Junior WRC leaderboard.


Jürgenson is a product of the FIA’s Rally Star talent detection programme, with this week’s asphalt fixture marking only his third WRC start. Despite his relative inexperience, the Estonian’s ability shone through on day one as he won four of the eight special stages.


Ali Türkkan set the pace in the opening test but the Turkish driver’s lead was short-lived as he and co-driver Burak Erdener crashed their Ford Fiesta Rally3 immediately afterwards. Jürgenson, driving a similar car, was virtually unchallenged after he inherited the top spot and he reached the overnight halt in Zagreb 1min 4.3sec ahead of Tom Rensonnet.


WRC3 third place went to Jürgenson’s Rally Star team-mate Taylor Gill as siblings Norbert and Francesca Maior secured fourth, just 5.9sec further back. Behind them was Mattéo Chatillon, the only driver campaigning a Renault Clio Rally3 in a sea of M-Sport Poland-built Fiestas.


Today's second leg follows a similar format. Four stages are driven morning and afternoon, covering 108.76km in total.


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