Neuville and Evans exactly level after WRC Croatia Rally Day 1

Neuville and Evans exactly level after WRC Croatia Rally Day 1

Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans are exactly level after Friday’s action at WRC Croatia Rally.

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 10.1s 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 10s.

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 6.6s behind.

“We are really disappointed [about the damaged tyre] because it’s something that couldn’t have been avoided,” Neuville admitted. “I did what I could, but it was not a great day for us.”

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.

Anticipating wet weather on Saturday, Ogier remarked: “Tomorrow is the start of another rally, I think – much slower and much slippier.”

Ott Tänak ended 41.1s 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 11.6s.

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.

Saturday’s second leg follows a similar format. Four stages are driven morning and afternoon, covering 108.76km in total.

Find everything you need to know (Itinerary, Maps, Rally Guides, Entry list) about the WRC Croatia Rally here.

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WRC Croatia Rally 2024 – Standings after Friday (SS8)

#DriversCarTime / Diff. to 1st
1.Neuville / WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally11:05:15.3
2.Evans / MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally1+0.0
3.Ogier / LandaisToyota GR Yaris Rally1+6.6
4.Tänak / JärveojaHyundai i20 N Rally1+41.1
5.Fourmaux / CoriaFord Puma Rally1+52.7
6.Katsuta / JohnstonToyota GR Yaris Rally1+1:37.8
7.Mikkelsen / EriksenHyundai i20 N Rally1+2:37:8
8.Munster / LoukaFord Puma Rally1+3:07.3
9.Gryazin / AleksandrovCitroën C3 Rally2+3:48.3
10.Rossel / DunandCitroën C3 Rally2+4:19.4

Photo, text: Red Bull Content Pool