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WRC Croatia: Neuville leads Evans after Ogier wheel failure

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville has emerged with the lead at Rally Croatia on Friday morning after early leader Sebastien Ogier and world rally champion Kalle Rovanpera were forced to change a wheel.

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

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

The Belgian, driving one of two Hyundai’s carrying a special tribute livery to the late Craig Breen, ended the morning loop at the asphalt rally with a 16.1s lead over Toyota’s Elfyn Evans.

M-Sport’s Ott Tanak managed to reach service park in third, 22.1 seconds adrift despite struggling with his Ford Puma, while the sister Hyundai of Esapekka Lappi was fourth, 34.9s in arrears. Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta and M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet completed the top six.

After changing a wheel on stage 2, Ogier won three of the four stages but ended the loop seventh overall, 1m27.1s behind.

Rovanpera found himself outside of the points after his delay, which was compounded by struggles coping with the dirty road conditions.

The rally began under clear skies with Ogier making the most of the cleanest of the road conditions, starting first in the order.

The eight-time world champion and championship leader delivered a stunning time despite the low grip caused by mud that had been brought onto the surface from rain in the lead up to the event.

Ogier was 2.6s faster than Neuville, second on the road, although the Belgian was struggling with the handling of his i20 N, admitting at stage end that he ”was fighting the car" and had a “big job” to do to reach the finish.

The road conditions became increasingly worse after every pass with the next fastest being Tanak, who was 10.5s slower, although some of the time loss was down to a stall at a tight hairpin left.

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

"I was losing the boost and then I stalled,” said Tanak. "After that I really struggled with many things. We got some steering issue already on the road section.”

Rovanpera was 0.8s slower than the Estonian as he struggled to extract speed from his GR Yaris.

The Finn’s rally hopes would take a more decisive blow on the next stage as he and Ogier suffered a tyre deflation, which appeared to be caused by the same pot hole 12km into the 25km test.

Ogier lost the rally lead as he dropped 1m32s in the test, but incredibly was able to change his damaged wheel and tyre in little over a minute.

"I avoided the cuts as much as I could but it was just the compression that made the puncture. What can I do?," said Ogier.

Rovanpera lost 2m17s in the test which dropped him out of the top 10.

There was also a slight drama for Neuville, who ended up winning the stage to inherit the rally lead. Neuville misjudged a chicane and clipped a hay bale which caused damage to the front of his tricolour i20N.

“We will keep going but if it's going to be tricky like this and hard to drive the car like this all weekend, it wont be easy,” said Neuville, who ended the stage 4.2s faster than second fastest Elfyn Evans, the Welshman recorded only one shakedown run on Thursday due to a turbo issue.

Ogier bounced back to win stage 3 as he pipped Neuville by 0.8s, with Evans lucky to be third fastest after suffering from a slow puncture towards the end of the test. Tanak kept himself in the mix as he battled his Puma to clock a time, 0.5s slower than Evans.

Rovanpera, however, continued to struggle adjusting to the road conditions and dropped another 8.1s.

“I am struggling with the car in the cuts and I think that's where I am losing most of the time,” he said.

Ogier once again proved he is the man to beat on the asphalt stage by claiming his third stage win from four in the final test of the loop.

The part-time Toyota driver and 2021 Croatia winner was 1.3s faster than Tanak, while leader Neuville dropped 2.1s.

In WRC2, Yohan Rossel led the class by 29.7s from Nikolay Gryazin ahead of a second pass through the stages for the crews this afternoon.

WRC Croatia: Friday morning result

Cla Driver/Codriver Car Class Total Time Gap
1 Marko Lončarić
Gabrijel Krnjić
Renault Clio Rally4 RC4 26'13.2  
2 Belgium Thierry Neuville
Belgium Martijn Wydaeghe
Hyundai i20 N Rally1 RC1 32'50.0 6'36.8
3 United Kingdom Elfyn Evans
United Kingdom Scott Martin
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 RC1 33'06.4 6'53.2
4 Estonia Ott Tanak
Estonia Martin Jarveoja
Ford Puma Rally1 RC1 33'13.0 6'59.8
5 Finland Esapekka Lappi
Finland Janne Ferm
Hyundai i20 N Rally1 RC1 33'22.5 7'09.3
6 Japan Takamoto Katsuta
Ireland Aaron Johnston
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 RC1 33'37.4 7'24.2
7 France Pierre-Louis Loubet
Belgium Nicolas Gilsoul
Ford Puma Rally1 RC1 33'42.4 7'29.2
8 France Sébastien Ogier
France Vincent Landais
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 RC1 34'19.2 8'06.0
9 France Yohan Rossel
Arnaud Dunand
Citroën C3 Rally2 RC2 34'22.4 8'09.2
10 France Nicolas Ciamin
Yannick Roche
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 RC2 34'55.9 8'42.7
11 Sweden Oliver Solberg
United Kingdom Elliott Edmondson
Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2 34'56.5 8'43.3
12 Russian Federation Nikolay Gryazin
Konstantin Aleksandrov
Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2 34'56.6 8'43.4
13 Sami Pajari
Enni Mälkönen
Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2 35'10.1 8'56.9
14 Alejandro Cachón
Alejandro López
Citroën C3 Rally2 RC2 35'18.3 9'05.1
15 Finland Kalle Rovanperä
Finland Jonne Halttunen
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 RC1 35'23.4 9'10.2
16 Georg Linnamäe
James Morgan
Hyundai i20 N Rally2 RC2 35'37.3 9'24.1
17 Finland Emil Lindholm
Reeta Hämäläinen
Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2 35'46.6 9'33.4
18 Grégoire Munster
Louis Louka
Ford Fiesta Rally2 RC2 35'52.4 9'39.2
19 France Adrien Fourmaux
France Alexandre Coria
Ford Fiesta Rally2 RC2 36'08.3 9'55.1
20 Norbert Herczig
Ramón Ferencz
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 36'12.2 9'59.0
21 Germany Armin Kremer
Ella Kremer
Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2 36'17.6 10'04.4
22 Laurent Pellier
Marine Pelamourgues
Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3 36'42.6 10'29.4
23 William Creighton
Liam Regan
Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3 36'56.7 10'43.5
24 United Kingdom Gus Greensmith
Sweden Jonas Andersson
Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2 37'10.9 10'57.7
25 Johannes Keferbock
Ilka Minor
Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2 37'14.2 11'01.0
26 Mauro Miele
Luca Beltrame
Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RC2 37'15.3 11'02.1
27 Patrick O'Brien
Stephen O'Brien
Hyundai i20 N Rally2 RC2 37'17.7 11'04.5
28 Roberto Jnr.
Mauro Barreiro
Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3 37'56.4 11'43.2
29 Rok Turk
Blanka Kacin
Hyundai i20 N Rally2 RC2 37'59.3 11'46.1
30 Diego Jr.
Spain Rogelio Penate
Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3 38'09.1 11'55.9
31 Tom Rensonnet
Loïc Dumont
Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3 38'18.7 12'05.5
32 Victor Cartier
Marine Maye
Toyota Yaris Rally2-Kit RC2 38'23.7 12'10.5
33 Eamonn Kelly
Conor Mohan
Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3 38'35.4 12'22.2
34 Raúl Hernández
Rodrigo Sanjuan
Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3 38'39.7 12'26.5
35 Vlastimil Majerčák
Jakub Slovák
Ford Fiesta Rally2 RC2 38'56.0 12'42.8
36 Fabio Schwarz
Tim Rauber
Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3 39'17.2 13'04.0
37 Jan Medved
Izidor Šavelj
Opel Corsa Rally4 RC4 39'47.7 13'34.5
38 Eamonn Boland
Michael Joseph
Citroën C3 Rally2 RC2 39'55.5 13'42.3
39 Matteo Fontana
Alessandro Arnaboldi
Peugeot 208 Rally4 RC4 40'05.4 13'52.2
40 Zoltán László
Gábor Zsíros
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 40'16.1 14'02.9
41 Marco Oldani
Pietro D'Agostino
Peugeot 208 Rally4 RC4 40'56.4 14'43.2
42 Tomas Hrvatin
Djani Simčić
Renault Clio Rally4 RC4 40'59.7 14'46.5
43 Aleš Zrinski
Rok Vidmar
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 41'21.0 15'07.8
44 Romet Jürgenson
Siim Oja
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 41'23.8 15'10.6
45 Željko Magličić
Ivan Poljak
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 41'39.7 15'26.5
46 Igor Mandić
Albert Ivančić
Renault Clio Rally5 RC5 43'42.5 17'29.3
47 Jan Pokos
Viljem Ošlaj
Peugeot 208 Rally4 RC4 44'00.1 17'46.9
48 Henk Vossen
Radboud van
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 44'36.5 18'23.3
49 Vjekoslav Čičko
Eugen Kokolić
Renault Clio Rally5 RC5 45'27.5 19'14.3
50 Hamza Anwar
Martin Brady
Ford Fiesta Rally3 RC3 46'43.5 20'30.3

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