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WRC leader Thierry Neuville seeks redemption at Croatia Rally

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Belgian driver aims to shake off his recent slump in the Balkan capital city

Points leader Thierry Neuville is in need of a change of fortunes if he is to stay ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing rival Elfyn Evans at Croatia Rally this week (18 – 21 April), round four of the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship. Neuville, who drives an i20 N Rally1 car for Hyundai Motorsport, opened his season in fine fashion by winning Rallye Monte-Carlo, but issues in Sweden and Kenya have prevented the Belgian from recording a podium finish since.

He arrives in the capital city Zagreb eager to reverse his fortunes and secure a much-needed win to maintain his six-point lead over Welshman Evans, who triumphed here last year.
“Croatia is one of the most demanding Tposearmac rallies I have ever competed in,” he said. “There are lots of blind corners, crests and jumps – something very unusual for a Tarmac event. “Finishing in the top three is crucial to maintaining the championship lead, [but] our biggest target is to push for a top-step finish.”

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Tough Safari Rally Kenya for Neuville

Attended by over 300,000 spectators in 2022 and 2023, Croatia Rally presents a unique mix of surfaces ranging from smooth asphalt to badly broken concrete. Fluctuating grip levels on the undulating roads pose a challenge and, despite the overall high speeds, narrow passages and numerous blind crests and turns demand a cautious approach from competitors. Weather adds another layer of complexity to the already demanding conditions as, if it rains, the surface becomes muddier and slipperier with each car that passes.

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Belgian driver on Croatian tarmac in his unlucky 2023 race

It’s a rally that has previously suited Toyota well, with Japanese machinery topping the podium in every edition since 2021. Eight-time world champion and past winner Sébastien Ogier joins Evans in the GR Yaris line-up, as does Takamoto Katsuta. Hyundai fields three cars for Neuville, Ott Tänak and Andreas Mikkelsen while M-Sport has entered a pair of Puma Rally1s for Adrien Fourmaux, currently third in the points, and Grégoire Munster.

Just three years ago, Fourmaux raised eyebrows when he took a Fiesta World Rally car to fifth overall on his top-flight debut in Croatia. This time he starts the rally fresh from back-to-back podiums in Sweden and Kenya, eager to net his maiden victory.