WRC Rally Croatia: Ogier takes lead as Hyundais struggle on day two

A morning loop implosion from Hyundai on day two of the World Rally Championship's maiden Croatian event handed the lead to Toyota's defending series champion Sebastien Ogier.

WRC Rally Croatia: Ogier takes lead as Hyundais struggle on day two

Elfyn Evans is second in a Toyota 1-2, with overnight leader Thierry Neuville and his Hyundai team-mate Ott Tanak trailing behind.

Neuville, Tanak and fellow Hyundai driver Craig Breen all started the day on two of Pirelli’s hard compound tyres and two of the softer compound with a single soft spare.

The soft rubber had been the way to go in the cooler conditions on Friday, as proven by the 24 seconds lost by Tanak on his all-hard choice.

But Saturday dawned warm and sunny and the option of hard tyres all round, as chosen by all of the Toyota and M-Sport Ford runners, proved to be the way forward.

Neuville’s 7.7s overnight advantage turned into a 4.3s deficit after Ogier took command with his fourth consecutive stage win of the event on SS9, Evans slotting into second behind him.

After Toyota's Japanese protege Takamoto Katsuta won the day's second stage, Ogier and Evans extended their advantage with one stage win apiece on the remaining two stages of the loop, while Neuville struggled with his tyres, a broken brake disk and a recurrence of the low speed engine stalling that blighted his 2020 season.

The Belgian thus trailed Ogier by 19.7s as they returned to service, with Tanak a further 18s behind in fourth as he struggled to regain any of the half-minute deficit he'd given up to Neuville on Friday.

“For us it was pretty clear that [the hard compound] was the choice this morning so we were a bit surprised to see the choice of the Hyundais,” said Ogier.

Sebastien Ogier, Rally Croatia 2021

Sebastien Ogier, Rally Croatia 2021

Photo by: McKlein

Hyundai principal Andrea Adamo took full responsibility for another event, such as Monte Carlo this year and Turkey in 2020, in which his team’s strategic frailties were left cruelly exposed.

“From when I’m here, most of the time, when there has been a difficult tyre choice we were able to pick the wrong one,” he said.

“So it’s something in the organisation I set up that doesn’t work. I take responsibility for it, and for which I had better move my ass and solve it.”

Unusually perhaps, the Hyundai drivers were rather more sanguine about their plight than the man in charge.

“I think you should not listen Adamo too much, he’s always very critical to himself and then it’s obviously not everything down to himself,” said Tanak.

With their cars on the correct tyres for the afternoon loop, the Hyundais went off with a request to "make miracles" from their team boss and Neuville duly delivered, winning the first of the afternoon tests and benefitting from a puncture for Ogier to reclaim 10s.

On SS14 it was Katsuta who repeated his morning form and won again, helping him to place seventh overall by the end of the day.

Neuville’s fightback was slowing however, as he claimed back just 0.1s from Ogier and then tied with the Frenchman on the penultimate stage of the day. He closed off the second day 10.4s behind Ogier and with 6.9s to find on tomorrow’s four stages to overhaul Evans for second place.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

“I had an issue with my jack and I couldn’t change tyres all afternoon loop, so my tyres were already a bit dead for the last stage,” the Belgian said. “I tried to continue to push and obviously we expected to lose a little bit.”

Tanak holds a lonely fourth place, almost half a minute behind Neuville and 51s ahead of impressive WRC debutant Adrien Fourmaux's M-Sport Ford.

The Frenchman's team-mate Gus Greensmith, partnered with veteran co-driver Chris Patterson for the first time, has also shown flashes of potential to hold sixth overall ahead of Katsuta, with Breen's third Hyundai rounding out the WRC runners.

In WRC2, Nikolay Gryazin took the lead briefly after overnight leader Mads Ostberg struggled to find confidence in his pacenotes. But Ostberg swiftly overhauled the Russian, who then lost his power steering and more than a minute, allowing Teemu Suninen through into second.

The WRC3 class is led by Kajetan Kajetanowicz after overnight leader Joann Rossel suffered problems. Chris Ingram, contesting his first event since winning the 2019 European Rally Championship title, put in a solid day’s work on his WRC event debut to climb from sixth to third, two minutes behind second-place Emil Lindholm.

shares
comments

Related video

Latvala: New Toyota Rally1 car "on schedule" despite hybrid recall
Previous article

Latvala: New Toyota Rally1 car "on schedule" despite hybrid recall

Next article

Hyundai: "Not impossible" for Neuville to still win Croatia Rally

Hyundai: "Not impossible" for Neuville to still win Croatia Rally
Inside Hyundai’s F1-spec mobile WRC home Plus

Inside Hyundai’s F1-spec mobile WRC home

Hyundai is one of the World Rally Championship's big three, and has a brand-new travelling facility befitting of that status. The team invited Autosport for a behind-the-scenes look at its state-of-the-art HQ, which comes complete with all the bells and whistles you'd expect of a top Formula 1 outfit

WRC
Jul 27, 2022
How Rovanpera's latest Estonia masterclass left his WRC rivals stumped Plus

How Rovanpera's latest Estonia masterclass left his WRC rivals stumped

After trailing Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans for much of Rally Estonia's opening day, WRC points leader Kalle Rovanpera took advantage of a change in the weather and never looked back afterwards. Winning for a fifth time this year at the scene of his 2021 breakthrough, and with a breathtaking powerstage bonus for good measure, his advantage is already looking difficult to topple

WRC
Jul 18, 2022
How the WRC captures its stunning visuals Plus

How the WRC captures its stunning visuals

Whether it’s the mountains of Monte Carlo, the snow of Sweden or the Kenya Savannah, the World Rally Championship is able to beam some of motorsport’s most spectacular footage to television screens while operating in the harshest of environments. Autosport went behind the scenes to unearth the secrets that make this logistical challenge possible

WRC
Jul 7, 2022
Why WRC's Safari tour is more than just a rally Plus

Why WRC's Safari tour is more than just a rally

OPINION: A source of national pride in Kenya, the Safari Rally is also a sporting, cultural and economic phenomenon. And as last weekend's World Rally Championship round reminded us, it's a key driver in establishing Africa’s place in world motorsport

WRC
Jun 29, 2022
How Rovanpera tamed a wild Safari Rally Plus

How Rovanpera tamed a wild Safari Rally

The Safari Rally acted as a brutal test of driver and car resolve as multiple retirements opened the path for a historic Toyota 1-2-3-4 triumph, headed by star Kalle Rovanpera. But keeping things clean was only half of the challenge, as a well-timed charge when conditions worsened allowed the Finn to take control

WRC
Jun 27, 2022
How Tanak turned the tables to deliver Hyundai a timely WRC triumph Plus

How Tanak turned the tables to deliver Hyundai a timely WRC triumph

The 2019 champion has been a bit-part player recently, but Ott Tanak ended a 15-month drought in fine style with a dominant win in Sardinia. On a weekend when championship leader Kalle Rovanpera struggled with cleaning the road, his Hyundai rival has made his belated arrival into the title race and given cause for those predicting a walkover from the Toyota star to pause

WRC
Jun 6, 2022
How Rovanpera overcame rallying royalty in Portugal to extend his WRC lead Plus

How Rovanpera overcame rallying royalty in Portugal to extend his WRC lead

Although the Rally Portugal entry list featured World Rally Championship royalty in Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier, victory was secured by rallying's rising star in Kalle Rovanpera. Here's the story of his 2022 hat-trick, as his key rivals faltered among the gravel and asphalt ahead of them

WRC
May 23, 2022
The former WRC star playing the unsung hero role for Rovanpera Plus

The former WRC star playing the unsung hero role for Rovanpera

Kalle Rovanpera’s 2022 World Rally Championship displays have been spectacular, with the Toyota driver benefitting from a secret weapon in his crew to win two of the opening three rallies. But while the former challenger to Sebastien Loeb won’t take credit for his fellow Finn's performances, a key bond has been formed which could prove key to Rovanpera’s title charge

WRC
Apr 29, 2022