Sebastien Ogier lucked into FIA WRC win in Rally Croatia after double disaster for two of rivals at the front, who dropped to second and third.


The battle is well and truly raging at Croatia Rally after FIA World Rally Championship frontrunners Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans ended day one level on times. There was nothing to separate the two drivers after eight treacherous stages totalling 120km in the hills west of the capital city Zagreb. However, Neuville, who entered this fourth round of the season with a six-point lead over Welshman Evans, was left to rue missed opportunities.

Neuville won four of the day’s first five asphalt speed tests, building a 10.1sec advantage. However, the Belgian driver’s efforts were thwarted when his Hyundai i20 N struck a rock in SS6 and sustained front right tyre damage costing around 10sec. Toyota GR Yaris driver Evans seized the lead by winning the following stage from Jaškovo to Mali Modruš Potok.

Nonetheless, a late resurgence from Neuville in the finale saw both drivers finish the day on equal footing, with Sébastien Ogier completing the podium just 6.6sec behind. Muddy conditions, and even flurries of snow, led to changeable grip levels with Ogier, running sixth on the road, one of the worst-hit by dirt being dragged onto the road.

Despite encountering a slow puncture in SS1 and being caught in a localised rain shower in SS5, the Frenchman’s strong performance in SS8 propelled him back into contention. Ott Tänak ended 41.1sec adrift of the lead in fourth overall. After noting that his Hyundai felt “nervous” in the morning, the Estonian enjoyed a more consistent afternoon and edged out Adrien Fourmaux’s M-Sport Ford Puma by 11.6sec.

Toyota hotshot Takamoto Katsuta claimed sixth place ahead of Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen, who lost time in the morning after overshooting a junction. Grégoire Munster was eighth while WRC2 frontrunners Nikolay Gryazin and Yohan Rossel completed the leaderboard.


Thierry Neuville led a finely-balanced Croatia Rally after Saturday’s enthralling penultimate leg ended with the leading three drivers blanketed by 11.6sec. After a day of many twists and turns – literally and metaphorically – Hyundai i20 N star Neuville held a 4.9sec advantage over Toyota rival Elfyn Evans, provisionally scoring 18 points to boost his championship charge against the Welshman. Eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier made it two GR Yaris cars inside the top three, ending within 11.6sec of the top spot.

The morning swung in Neuville’s favour thanks to his efforts in preserving his four soft compound Pirelli P Zero tyres. Evans, who had ended Friday tied with the Belgian, dropped 4.7sec across the loop as he struggled to juggle only three softs, two wets and one hard tyre in the absence of forecasted rain. All three Toyota crews opted to carry four soft and two wet tyres for the repeated afternoon loop while Neuville chose a more diverse package comprising two hards, two softs and two wets.

Although that strategy initially paid off for the Japanese marque when Evans reclaimed the lead after beating Neuville by 6.7sec in the light drizzle of SS13, Neuville responded by winning the final three asphalt tests in predominantly dry conditions to go back in front. Neuville’s Saturday standing will earn him 18 points, providing he completes Super Sunday. Evans will receive 15 while Ogier gets 13.

Ott Tänak was fourth, more than a minute further back in another i20. The Estonian was lucky to escape with nothing more than slightly a bent rear wheel when he ran wide on a left-hander and clipped a kerb. Tänak had 19.9sec in hand over Adrien Fourmaux’s Ford Puma in fifth. Fourmaux was again impressive in his M-Sport machine, taking the fastest time at Smerovišće – Grdanjci to stretch his advantage over Toyota’s third driver Takamoto Katsuta.

Seventh-placed Andreas Mikkelsen suffered another time-consuming overshoot but felt increasingly comfortable aboard his Hyundai by the day’s finish. Grégoire Munster gained more valuable experience in his Puma to end the day eighth while WRC2 stars Nikolay Gryazin and Yohan Rossel completed the leaderboard.


Sébastien Ogier jumped from third to first overall on a dramatic Sunday at Croatia Rally, claiming a surprise win as Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans faced heartbreak. Sébastien Ogier jumped from third to first overall on a dramatic Sunday at Croatia Rally, claiming a surprise win as Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans faced heartbreak.

After three days of neck and neck competition on spectator-packed asphalt roads around capital city Zagreb, victory looked set to be decided between Neuville, driving a Hyundai i20 N, and Welshman Evans in a Toyota GR Yaris. However, as they headed into the second stage of this final day separated by just 2.6sec, the tables suddenly turned.

A late pace note meant overnight leader Neuville arrived too fast into a left-hander and slid wide before riding up a bank and into a tree. The impact destroyed his Hyundai’s rear aerodynamics package but, more importantly, cost him almost 25sec. Unaware of his rival’s problem, Evans misjudged a tightening right-hand bend in the very same stage and spun, dropping 20sec as he tried to get his car pointing in the right direction. It meant that Ogier, who had occupied third place since the opening stage on Friday morning, suddenly gained a 9.1sec lead with two stages remaining.

Unlike his peers, Ogier made no such errors and kept Toyota team-mate Evans at bay – celebrating his second Croatia Rally triumph by 9.7sec along with a milestone 100th WRC podium. Toyota’s 1-2 result extended the Japanese marque’s lead in the manufacturers’ championship to seven points over Hyundai. But all was not lost for Neuville, who nursed his battered car to the end 36.1sec behind Evans in third.

The 18 points Neuville earned by leading on Saturday evening helped to retain his drivers’ series lead, and he heads Evans by six points after round four of 13. Ott Tänak had a high-speed scare in SS18 when his Hyundai mounted a grass embankment, but the Estonian recovered quickly to secure a fourth-place finish.

He initially faced pressure from M-Sport Ford hotshot Adrien Fourmaux before the Frenchman plummeted down the order after damaging his Puma’s steering, hitting an anti-cut marker on the same test that caught out Neuville and Evans. Takamoto Katsuta claimed the maximum seven points available for being the fastest driver across Super Sunday, climbing to fifth in his Toyota after Fourmaux’s troubles. Andreas Mikkelsen and Grégoire Munster were sixth and seventh, while Rally2 runners Nikolay Gryazin, Yohan Rossel and Sami Pajari completed the top 10.


[Note: The story is as per press release]