WRC Croatia: Evans scores emotional victory to end drought

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans claimed a first World Rally Championship victory in 18 months after seeing off M-Sport-Ford’s Ott Tanak to take a comfortable win in Croatia.

Evans and co-driver Scott Martin delivered a faultless drive to score a first win since Rally Finland in October 2021 by a margin of 27.0 seconds from Tanak on Croatia’s challenging asphalt stages.

Esapekka Lappi secured third, 58.6s adrift, to score his first podium of the season for Hyundai, who fielded a reduced two car line-up following the tragic death of its third Craig Breen in a pre-event testing crash last week. The South Korean squad honoured Breen by running a special livery on both its i20 N cars.

A turbo issue initially put Evans on the back foot in Thursday’s shakedown, limiting the Welshman to only one run. However, a solid run through Friday’s eight stages left him trailing Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville by 5.7s heading into Saturday after scoring his one and only fastest time in stage 8.

Evans inherited a 19.1s rally lead on Saturday morning when Neuville crashed out in stage 11. The Belgian damaged his i20 N’s left rear suspension following contact with a piece of concrete having misjudged a third gear right-hander.

Neuville’s retirement from the day created a head-to-head lead battle between Evans and Tanak, the latter had been gathering momentum after fine tuning the set up of his Ford Puma. Evans struggled for confidence on roads that became littered with gravel dragged on from the many cuts on Saturday afternoon, which allowed Tanak to pounce.

Tanak closed to within 12.5s of Evans before the Ford driver suffered a transmission problem and a hydraulic issue that restricted the use of the handbrake, costing him valuable seconds in Saturday’s final two stages.

Equipped with a 25.4s lead, Evans produced a measured drive in Sunday’s final four stages to take an emotional victory.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“It feels so insignificant [the win] now that is the bottom line,” said Evans. "Obviously we have been working for this for a long time it is surprising how little it means at the moment. We are back to missing our friend [Craig] now, straight away when you cross the finish line that is all you can think about.”

Lappi ensured all three WRC teams were represented on the podium despite the Finn’s struggles to deliver consistent front running pace in his i20N.

World champion Kalle Rovanpera finished fourth behind Evans after winning an entertaining duel with his eight-time world champion team-mate Sebastien Ogier, who had the advantage of opening the roads on Friday.

The pair’s victory hopes were dealt a blow on stage 2 when they hit the same pothole which forced the duo to change a wheel in the stage. Ogier lost 1m32s in the stage as he surrendered the lead he’d gained after the first stage. The Frenchman, who ended the rally with seven stage wins, was handed a minute penalty for a safety belt infringement in the aftermath of the wheel change. He picked up a further 10s penalty for checking into stage 9 late after being forced to fix a problem with his GR Yaris on a road section.

Rovanpera dropped 2m26s after his wheel change in stage 2 that pushed him outside of the top 10. However, starting first on the road on Saturday helped the Finn begin his recovery up the leaderboard. Ultimately Rovanpera chalked up six stage wins and managed to overhaul Ogier on Sunday to snatch fourth.

Toyota’s nominated only Rovanpera and Ogier to score manufacturers points instead of the permitted three drivers, in move of solidarity with Hyundai following Breen’s passing.

Takamoto Katsuta ran as high as fifth before settling for sixth ahead of M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet, while Yohan Rossel finished eighth overall to win the WRC2 class.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

Neuville rejoined the rally on Sunday to deliver an emotional Power Stage win to claim five bonus points.

“We really wanted that victory - we wanted to make Craig proud - but we missed the opportunity. We gave it everything in here. This one was for Craig,” said Neuville.

Evans and Ogier share the lead of the championship by a point from Rovanpera heading into the fifth round of the championship in Portugal next month.

WRC Rally Croatia - Top 10 results

 Cla   Driver   Time   Gap 
Elfyn Evans 2h50m54.4s  
Ott Tänak 2h51m21.3s 26.9s
Esapekka Lappi 2h51m52.9s 58.5s
Kalle Rovanperä 2h52m12.7s 1m18.3s
Sébastien Ogier 2h52m22.3s 1m27.9s
Takamoto Katsuta 2h53m16.9s 2m22.5s
P-L.Loubet 2h55m16.9s 4m22.5s
Yohan Rossel 2h58m45.6s 7m51.2s
Nikolay Gryazin 2h59m01.8s 8m07.4s
10  Oliver Solberg 3h00m11.1s 9m16.7s

 

shares
comments

WRC Croatia: Evans moves a step closer to victory

Breakthrough WRC win leaves Evans with mixed emotions

The Neuville splash and grab that ends Hyundai’s WRC win drought

The Neuville splash and grab that ends Hyundai’s WRC win drought

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Italy
Tom Howard

The Neuville splash and grab that ends Hyundai’s WRC win drought The Neuville splash and grab that ends Hyundai’s WRC win drought

How Rovanpera fired the WRC a timely reminder of his class in Portugal

How Rovanpera fired the WRC a timely reminder of his class in Portugal

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Portugal
Tom Howard

How Rovanpera fired the WRC a timely reminder of his class in Portugal How Rovanpera fired the WRC a timely reminder of his class in Portugal

How Evans ended his WRC drought in sombre Croatia breakthrough

How Evans ended his WRC drought in sombre Croatia breakthrough

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Croatia
Tom Howard

How Evans ended his WRC drought in sombre Croatia breakthrough How Evans ended his WRC drought in sombre Croatia breakthrough

The Mexico maestro keeps cool among the WRC chaos

The Mexico maestro keeps cool among the WRC chaos

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Mexico
Tom Howard

The Mexico maestro keeps cool among the WRC chaos The Mexico maestro keeps cool among the WRC chaos

How the WRC title fight ignited in Sweden's winter wonderland

How the WRC title fight ignited in Sweden's winter wonderland

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Sweden
Tom Howard

How the WRC title fight ignited in Sweden's winter wonderland How the WRC title fight ignited in Sweden's winter wonderland

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Monte Carlo
Tom Howard

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Monte Carlo
Tom Howard

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Plus
Plus
WRC
Tom Howard

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Subscribe