Neuville narrowly leads Evans & Ogier after WRC Croatia Rally Day 2

Neuville narrowly leads Evans & Ogier after WRC Croatia Rally Day 2

Thierry Neuville heads Croatia Rally after Saturday’s action. The differences at the top are tight, however, with the top 3 covered by just 11.6 seconds.

After a day of many twists and turns – literally and metaphorically – Hyundai i20 N star Neuville held a 4.9s 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 11.6s 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 4.7s across the loop as he struggled to juggle only three softs, two wets and one hard tyre in the absence of forecasted rain.

Tyre choices

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 6.7s 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.

“It’s not a big lead, but we had a great day,” smiled the leader. “Despite a not perfect tyre choice this afternoon we were capable of defending our lead. We need to continue attacking and have a good tyre choice [on Sunday]. It wasn’t easy when the weather wasn’t very easy to judge.”

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 19.9s 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.

Four more stages lie in wait in Sunday’s finale, with up to 12 championship points still up for grabs. They total 54.78km before the finish in Croatian capital Zagreb.

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 Saturday (SS16)

#DriversCarTime / Diff. to 1st
1.Neuville / WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally12:09:46.0
2.Evans / MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally1+4.9
3.Ogier / LandaisToyota GR Yaris Rally1+11.6
4.Tänak / JärveojaHyundai i20 N Rally1+1:15.5
5.Fourmaux / CoriaFord Puma Rally1+1:35.4
6.Katsuta / JohnstonToyota GR Yaris Rally1+2:14.2
7.Mikkelsen / EriksenHyundai i20 N Rally1+4:00.8
8.Munster / LoukaFord Puma Rally1+4:56.3
9.Gryazin / AleksandrovCitroën C3 Rally2+7:41.4
10.Rossel / DunandCitroën C3 Rally2+8:20.9

Photo, text: Red Bull Content Pool