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WRC, Croatia Rally: Ogier wins in a crazy sunday

sébastien ogier

Small but weighty error for Neuville on SS18 paved the way to Toyotas, Evans lost the lead after a spin and Ogier takes his fifty-eighth WRC win. Gryazin confirms himself at the top of WRC2 on Citroen followed by team mate Rossel

Follow the Croatia Rally live with updates from our editorial team

If we were to use a famous quote from Gary Lineker adapted to motorsport, we could say that Rally is a simple sport. Drivers tackle special stages around the world, and (when it’s on) in the end, Sebastien Ogier always wins. Indeed, victory at the Croatia Rally went to the Frenchman on Toyota, ahead of his teammate Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville in the Hyundai. Ogier thus secures his 59th win in a remarkable career, during which he has clinched eight world titles with four manufacturers, all those he has raced for.

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Good job, Monsieur Sebastien

Another small but significant mistake for Neuville, who hit a bank on special stage 18, breaking his rear wing and losing precious seconds and the lead position. Perhaps the error, possibly due to a late pace note, caused him to lose concentration, struggling to regain rhythm until the end of the special stage.
“It is what it is,” Neuville said. “We had a great few days, but unfortunately today didn’t go so well. At the end we’re taking important points so it’s not so bad. We would have liked to push harder in the Power Stage but these cars without a rear wing are undriveable.”

A tough day also for Adrien Fourmaux, who slipped down the order from fifth position after hitting a chicane, damaging a steering arm on his Ford Puma. However, the Frenchman managed to win the Power Stage with a stunning time, securing crucial points for the team and the championship.

A rather linear and lacking in twists and turns until Saturday evening, the Croatia Rally 2024 still managed to deliver surprises on the final day. The event reaffirms itself as one of the most captivating on the current calendar, with images showcasing a massive crowd lining the Croatian special stages, something that the WRC desperately needs today. The sea of fans surrounding the crews at the end of the power stage evoked nostalgia and gifted us with thrilling visuals that have been all too scarce in recent WRC events.

In WRC standings Neuville keeps the lead at 86 points, but Evans is now close at 80 also thanks to sunday and power stage Croatia points. Adrien Fourmaux confirms his third position at 59 and Tanak is fourth at 53. Toyota Gazoo Racing leads manufacturer standings at 176 points, while Hyundai chase at 169 and Ford M-Sport is third at 96.

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Sunday’s hero Takamoto Katsuta

Another standout performer on the third day and sunday overall winner was Takamoto Katsuta, who won two out of four special stages with Toyota, also claiming a second-place finish. He ultimately finished fifth behind Ott Tanak’s Hyundai, who only showed speed in the final special stages, constantly struggling to find the right feeling on the Croatian asphalt. A disappointing performance for Andreas Mikkelsen, called upon by Hyundai to drive the third i20 Rally1 (why did the Korean manufacturer not choose asphalt specialist Sordo for this race?). A trouble-free race for Gregorie Munster, finishing seventh with the Ford Puma.

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Consistency and speed for Gryazin

Nikolay Gryazin confirmed his dominance in WRC2, also winning the power stage with Citroen. Behind him were his teammate Yohan Rossel and in third place, with the first Skoda, Spanish driver Pepe Lopez. In RC2, Pajari in a Toyota and Greensmith in a Skoda would have finished third and fourth, but the two did not include the Croatia Rally in the races to earn points.
Gryazin expressed his happiness after the race: “Thank you to the team, they never slow me down and keep me pushing. I have this pace all the time, I just need to make it more consistent. Overall, I’m happy!”

Citroen confirms the excellent performance level of the C3 Rally2, and Toyota can be very satisfied with Pajari’s performance in the first entirely asphalt race of 2024. The GR Yaris Rally 2 looks very promising and could become an interesting alternative for private drivers in national championships or regional races. However, there’s no smile on Skoda’s face; they were never in contention for victory with the Fabia Rally2, despite continuous development of the car. Hyundai is also in a deep crisis: Nicolas Ciamin was never competitive and showcased all the current limitations of the i20 Rally2 on asphalt, despite the latest upgrades specifically tailored for this race.

Rossel catches Oliver Solberg in WRC2 standings and now they share leadership at 43 points. Gryazin climbs in second place at 40 followed by Ciamin at 36 and Lopez at 33.

Saturday confirms Neuville’s domain

Even at the close of the second leg, after sixteen special stages, the top positions remain frozen at the Croatia Rally. Thierry Neuville in his Hyundai and Elfyn Evans in his Toyota continue to challenge each other on a knife-edge for first place in the standings, and the belgian, by consecutively winning special stages 14, 15, and 16, has again moved ahead by 4.9 seconds over the welshman.

Despite a choice of hard tires on the front of his Hyundai, which was nullified by rain that didn’t wait to fall on SS13, Neuville attacked on other stages where he found drier ground and now maintains the lead. Evans seemed to have a better tire choice, with four softs on his GR Yaris, but the Toyota driver didn’t find the feeling he hoped for.

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Are you chosing right tires, Ott?

Eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier is firmly in third position, and his gap of 11.6 seconds keeps him fully in contention for both the podium and victory. On Sunday’s four special stages, everyone will attack to win the race and earn valuable points awarded in the Power Stage, number 20 “Zagorska Sela,” which will be run last.

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Evans keeps second position on Toyota

From the fourth position onwards, the crews are clearly detached from the leaders, with Ott Tanak on Hyundai trailing by one minute and sixteen seconds, followed by Adrien Fourmaux in the first Ford and Takamoto Katsuta on Toyota. Mikkelsen in the third Hyundai maintains seventh position, eighth for Munster in the other Ford.

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Gryazin airlines welcomes you on Croatian roads

Nikolay Gryazin continues to dominate the WRC2 standings with the Citroen C3, increasing his lead over teammate Rossel, who is now trailing by 39.5 seconds and also paying a penalty of 10 seconds for a time control delay. Lopez on Skoda is third but very far from Citroen duo. Pajari on Toyota and Greensmith on Skoda, who are third and fourth in RC2 standings, are not taking WRC2 points in this race as they decided.

Voices from drivers at the end of leg 2:

Thierry Neuville: “It’s not a big lead, but we had a great day. Despite a not perfect tyre choice this afternoon we were capable of defending our lead. We need to continue attacking and have a good tyre choice tomorrow. It wasn’t easy when the weather wasn’t very easy to judge.”

Elfyn Evans: “What can I say? It’s been a good day. Some good driving – but I couldn’t quite follow Thierry.”

Adrien Fourmaux: “We’ve been fighting with Ott for the last two days so it’s been really positive to fight with a world champion. I wanted to beat him but we’re a little but behind, so until next time…”

Saturday morning: hard fight between Neuville and Evans

Heartbraking fight between Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans at Croatia Rally. After eight friday special stages first two drivers of WRC general ranking are sharing first position with same time. Neuville won four of five first stages, then had a puncture and lost all advantage built in the morning on Evans. The belgian hit a rock on SS6 and cut a tyre on his Hyundai. Regular but strong race for Evans, while Ogier follows in third place with only 6.6s gap and for sure on saturday tricky stages under a probable rain can attack two current leaders.

Not the best day for Ott Tanak, who follows in fourth at 40 seconds from the top, Fourmaux on Ford is fifth and not so far from the estonian. More than one minute behind Takamoto Katsuta struggled on tough croatian stages; the japanese is followed by Mikkelsen, never fast during leg 1.

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Citroen dominates WRC2 friday leg with Gryazin and Rossel

Words from drivers after leg 1

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

Sebastien Ogier: “It’s been a tough day for us with the road position, we expected that. Tomorrow is the start of another rally, I think – much slower and much slippier.”

Ott Tanak: “Last three stages we’ve been consistent, difficult to push, but we’ve been consistent.”

Nikolay Gryazin keeps WRC2 ranikg and Rossel completes provisional Ctiroen’s one-two. First Skoda, driven by Gus Greensmith is in third position followed by Sami Pajari on Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 at its first complete tarmac race.

Crews found very tough conditions on all stages with mud and water coming from melting snow. Saturday stages will probably be tougher; four per loop like friday leg, covering 108.76 km in total. Rain is forecast for all day.

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Neuville fast on four stages on five early friday

Friday morning: Neuville attacks hard

The Croatia Rally kicks off with the reigning world championship leader, Thierry Neuville, taking the spotlight. The Belgian driver has put his Hyundai ahead of the pack after the four special stages on Friday morning. He currently leads with an 8.6-second advantage over Elfyn Evans in the Toyota and a 21.5-second lead over eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier. However, Ott Tanak isn’t quite in sync with the Croatian asphalt and holds the fourth position. Meanwhile, Adrien Forumaux, driving the Ford Puma, is in excellent form after securing consecutive podium finishes in Sweden and Kenya.

Notably, there are significant gaps from the sixth position onward. Currently, Takamoto Katsuta in the Toyota follows, with Andreas Mikkelsen slightly below expectations in the Hyundai, and Gregoire Munster closing the Rally1 pack.

In the afternoon, the same four special stages will be repeated. Let’s read what drivers said after fourth special stage.

Sebatien Ogier: “It’s been a good run. We can be happy with our loop. We lost some ground, but hopefully better in the afternoon. Soft was definitely the wrong choice, i’m happy with my mixed choice.”

Takamoto Katsuta: “Drying up quite a lot. Changed a lot since the gravel crews. Still not easy stage, but a lot less happening and easier to drive. No issues on the car and just gotta be smart this afternoon.”

Ott Tanak: “I don’t know.. no commitment today. Struggling more than Monte. Hard to make it work. Tyre choice was okay.”

Adrien Fourmaux: “I’ve done a really really good stage. With the tyres I have, I couldn’t do more. Needed hards for this one. Can be happy with our pace. We tried to keep our tyre, driving clean and soft.”

Elfyn Evans: “Suited our tyre choice a bit more. Not a clean run downhill, but all okay.”

Thierry Neuville: “It’s probably the cleanest stage. I can’t attack. I have to be so smooth and clean. No way for me to push, otherwise it doesn’t work. I would like to go faster!”.

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Yohann Rossel fastest in WRC2 shakedown

Shakedown: Toyota on fire

The Toyota Gazoo Racing Team placed first and second in croatian thursday with Evans following Ogier, while Hyundai is chasing with world ranking leader Neuville third and Ott Tanak fourth; the estonian is looking for his first win of the year after a difficult start on his return with the korean manufacturer. A good fifth place for Adrien Fourmaux’s Ford Puma, followed by Mikkelsen’s third Hyundai. Seventh position for Katsuta’s Toyota, with Munster eighth on Ford and Yohann Rossel ninth leading the WRC2 standings with Citroen C3.

Quotes from drivers after Shakedown

Sebastien Ogier: “It is good to be back,”. “Two and a half months away is a very long time, but the pre-event test last week was useful, and I feel very happy here.”

Ott Tanak: “Maybe it’s not the moment to be really confident considering our start to the year. We’ll try to be efficient this weekend. The first target is to have a clean weekend, but it was the same in Kenya”

Adrien Fourmaux: “I have good lines in front because i will start behind Neuville and Evans so that’s quite good”

Gregoire Munster: “I found Rally Croatia already very difficult in Rally2 and in Rally1 everything is coming even faster. It’s not a bad feeling with the car; I was too careful, but I’m quite confident.”

Twenty special stages are scheduled for a race that promises to be tough and selective and has always tested crews in its last two editions. In 2023 Elfyn Evans won, while in 2022 victory went to Kalle Rovanpera, who is absent this year due to his choice of part-time employment.

At Croatia Rally, WRC3 crews are also competing, running with Ford Fiesta Rally3 cars except for Frenchman Chatillon’s Renault Clio. The best time was set by Turkish driver Turkkan, followed by Kazakh Borodin and Czech Kohn.”