WRC Croatia: Rovanpera stars as rain wreaks havoc on Friday morning

World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera starred in tricky wet conditions to lead Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville after an eventful morning at Rally Croatia. 

WRC Croatia: Rovanpera stars as rain wreaks havoc on Friday morning

Rovanpera emerged as the class of the field winning three of the four morning stages held on slippery wet asphalt as he made the most of the clean conditions being first on the road.

The Toyota driver ended the loop with a 12.5s lead over Neuville, who produced a solid display for Hyundai, with team-mate Ott Tanak, 47.3s adrift in third.

Craig Breen will head in to the afternoon stages in fourth, only 1.9s shy of the final podium position. M-Sport team-mate Gus Greensmith completed the distance in fifth. But it proved to be a challenging day for the Ford squad, who lost Adrien Fourmaux to a spin off the road on stage 3, while Pierre-Louis Loubet retired after suffering three punctures in two stages.

Elfyn Evans also suffered two front left punctures across the morning stages which left him 2 minutes and 1s adrift in eighth, behind Oliver Solberg and Takamoto Katsuta after Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi retired on the opening stage. 

The rally began in an eventful fashion as crews grappled with the slippery conditions and a road that became increasingly dirtier as drivers dragged mud onto the surface from cutting corners.

Rovanpera set a blistering time on the first test, winning the stage by 4.1s from Neuville, who was lucky to escape from an excursion into a ditch on the exit of the third corner.

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: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The Belgian labelled the stage “horrible” and the challenging road was winning few fans among the drivers.  

Breen emerged third fastest ahead of Tanak while Greensmith was fortunate to wrestle his car back on the road after a wild moment that resulted in his Ford Puma climbing a grass bank, narrowly avoiding a tree.

Solberg also lost time to a spin but worse was to come for Toyota’s Lappi and Evans, and M-Sport’s Loubet. 

Lappi clipped a rock while cutting a right hander which damaged his front right suspension, ending his day early on his Croatia debut, while Evans picked up a front left puncture and lost 1minute 20s. 

Meanwhile, Loubet could count himself unlucky as the Frenchman picked up punctures to both his front tyres, but was able to replenish his rubber having carried two spares.

Rovanpera continued his impressive start by winning the second stage and again Neuville emerged as his nearest rival, albeit 7.5s adrift.

Breen lost his grip of third overall to Tanak after the Irishman dropped 12s when he suffered a moment on the wet roads. The M-Sport driver ran wide on a left hander and elected to take evasive action by running up a grass bank avoiding a water hydrant in the process.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Behind, team-mate Loubet suffered even more misfortune, as he incurred a third puncture of the day, which ruled him out of the remaining stages on Friday.

The rain returned at the start of the third stage but it failed to dampen Rovanpera’s charge although he was unable to complete three consecutive stage wins.

Team-mate Evans issued a response after his slow start to the rally to take the honours in stage 3, posting a time 2.6s faster than Rovanpera, while Tanak was third and Breen fourth.

Up until this point Fourmaux was the only M-Sport driver to avoid trouble. However, that ended 200m into the stage when he lost the rear of this Puma and speared through a hedge, before coming to rest in a garden. The Frenchman didn’t start the final stage of morning.

Rovanpera wrapped up a strong opening morning by winning the final stage before service held in heavy rain. Neuville kept the pressure on the Finn, to sit 0.7s back while Breen made up 6.1s on Tanak in the battle for third.

After suffering his second puncture of the morning, Evans managed to limit the damage by dropping only 16.8s.

Yoann Rossel leads WRC2 from Britain's Chris Ingram, while Jon Armstrong tops the Junior WRC category, sitting an impressive 18th overall.   

The crews will repeat the morning loop of stages this afternoon.

Results:

Cla Driver/Codriver Car Total Time Gap
1 Finland Kalle Rovanperä
Finland Jonne Halttunen
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 25'58.800  
2 Belgium Thierry Neuville
Belgium Martijn Wydaeghe
Hyundai i20 N Rally1 26'10.400 11.600
3 Estonia Ott Tanak
Estonia Martin Jarveoja
Hyundai i20 N Rally1 26'32.300 33.500
4 Ireland Craig Breen
Ireland Paul Nagle
Ford Puma Rally1 26'38.800 40.000
5 United Kingdom Gus Greensmith
Sweden Jonas Andersson
Ford Puma Rally1 26'58.700 59.900
6 France Adrien Fourmaux
Alexandre Coria
Ford Puma Rally1 27'07.300 1'08.500
7 Sweden Oliver Solberg
United Kingdom Elliott Edmondson
Hyundai i20 N Rally1 27'15.200 1'16.400
8 Japan Takamoto Katsuta
Aaron Johnston
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 27'23.100 1'24.300
9 United Kingdom Elfyn Evans
United Kingdom Scott Martin
Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 27'46.500 1'47.700
10 France Yohan Rossel
France Valentin Sarreaud
Citroën C3 Rally2 28'02.300 2'03.500
11 Chris Ingram
United Kingdom Craig Drew
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 28'15.600 2'16.800
12 Russian Federation Nikolay Gryazin
Konstantin Aleksandrov
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 28'36.200 2'37.400
13 France Stéphane Lefebvre
Andy Malfoy
Citroën C3 Rally2 28'39.700 2'40.900
14 Poland Kajetan Kajetanowicz
Poland Maciek Szczepaniak
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 28'40.700 2'41.900
15 Finland Jari Huttunen
Mikko Lukka
Ford Fiesta Rally2 28'45.500 2'46.700
16 France Eric Camilli
Thibault De la Haye
Citroën C3 Rally2 28'46.600 2'47.800
17 Finland Emil Lindholm
Reeta Hämäläinen
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 28'57.300 2'58.500
18 Grégoire Munster
Louis Louka
Hyundai i20 N Rally2 29'09.600 3'10.800
19 United Kingdom Jon Armstrong
Brian Hoy
Ford Fiesta Rally3 29'25.400 3'26.600
20 Erik Cais
Petr Těšínský
Ford Fiesta Rally2 29'26.800 3'28.000
21 Robert Virves
Aleks Lesk
Ford Fiesta Rally3 29'38.500 3'39.700
22 Lauri Joona
Finland Mikael Korhonen
Ford Fiesta Rally3 29'42.400 3'43.600
23 United Kingdom Neil Simpson
Michael Gibson
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 29'47.400 3'48.600
24 Armin Kremer
Germany Timo Gottschalk
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 29'51.500 3'52.700
25 Mikko Heikkilä
Samu Vaaleri
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 29'59.500 4'00.700
26 Sami Pajari
Enni Mälkönen
Ford Fiesta Rally3 29'59.700 4'00.900
27 Georg Linnamäe
United Kingdom James Morgan
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 29'59.900 4'01.100
28 Mauro Miele
Luca Beltrame
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 30'01.000 4'02.200
29 Mikołaj Marczyk
Poland Szymon Gospodarczyk
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 30'07.300 4'08.500
30 Johannes Keferbock
Ilka Minor
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 30'19.100 4'20.300
31 Olivier Burri
Anderson Levratti
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 30'42.500 4'43.700
32 Jean-Baptiste Franceschi
Anthony Gorguilo
Ford Fiesta Rally3 30'44.200 4'45.400
33 United States Sean Johnston
Alexander Kihurani
Citroën C3 Rally2 30'45.700 4'46.900
34 France Pierre Ragues
Julien Pesenti
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 31'10.200 5'11.400
35 France Pierre-Louis Loubet
France Vincent Landais
Ford Puma Rally1 31'23.000 5'24.200
36 Mexico Benito Guerra
Spain Daniel Cue
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 31'37.800 5'39.000
37 Italy Enrico Brazzoli
Italy Manuel Fenoli
Ford Fiesta Rally3 31'54.000 5'55.200
38 Róbert Bútor
Róbert Tagai
Peugeot 208 Rally4 32'51.400 6'52.600
39 Slovenia Aljosa Novak
Uroš Ocvirk
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 32'55.700 6'56.900
40 Alfred Kramer
Jeannette Andersson
Peugeot 208 Rally4 32'59.300 7'00.500
41 Darko Peljhan
Matej Čar
Škoda Fabia R5 33'25.000 7'26.200
42 Niko Pulic
Aleksandra Kovačić
Škoda Fabia R5 33'34.700 7'35.900
43 Mexico Ricardo Trivino
Spain Marc Marti
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 33'34.800 7'36.000
44 Filippo Marchino
Roberto Briani
Škoda Fabia R5 33'46.000 7'47.200
45 Vlastimil Majerčák
Jakub Slovák
Ford Fiesta Rally3 34'12.600 8'13.800
46 Zoltán László
Tamás Kürti
Ford Fiesta Rally3 34'23.600 8'24.800
47 Fabrizio Arengi
Massimiliano Bosi
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 34'57.400 8'58.600
48 Ivica Siladić
Jasna Durak
Ford Fiesta Rally3 35'03.500 9'04.700
49 Martin Ravenščak
Marko Stiperski
Ford Fiesta Rally4 35'24.800 9'26.000
50 Viliam Prodan
Zoran Raštegorac
Renault Clio Rally4 35'32.900 9'34.100
51 McRae Kimathi
Mwangi Kioni
Ford Fiesta Rally3 36'21.100 10'22.300
52 Željko Magličić
Ivan Poljak
Ford Fiesta Rally4 36'41.200 10'42.400
53 Jan Pokos
Viljem Ošlaj
Ford Fiesta Rally4 36'42.100 10'43.300
54 Krešimir Ravenščak
Dora Ravenščak
Ford Fiesta Rally4 37'04.000 11'05.200
55 Lazar Milovanović
Goran Rabasović
Ford Fiesta Rally4 37'16.300 11'17.500
56 Carlo Covi
Michela Lorigiola
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 38'49.600 12'50.800
57 Netherlands Henk Vossen
Hans van Goor
Ford Fiesta R5 39'03.600 13'04.800
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