WRC Rally Croatia: Ogier takes lead as Hyundais struggle

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.

Elfyn Evans is second in a Toyota 1-2, with overnight leader Thierry Neuville and his Hyundai teammate 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 weather, 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, with 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 30s he'd lost 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.

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.

“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 teammate 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 pace notes. 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

Tanak: “Surprises” causing early Rally Croatia struggles
Previous article

Tanak: “Surprises” causing early Rally Croatia struggles

Next article

Hyundai: "Not impossible" for Neuville to win in Croatia

Hyundai: "Not impossible" for Neuville to win in Croatia
Why WRC's Safari tour is more than just a rally Prime

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 Kalle Rovanpera tamed a wild WRC Safari Rally in Kenya Prime

How Kalle Rovanpera tamed a wild WRC Safari Rally in Kenya

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 Prime

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
The former WRC star playing the unsung hero role for Rovanpera Prime

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
How Rovanpera's Croatia turnaround sent a message to his WRC rivals Prime

How Rovanpera's Croatia turnaround sent a message to his WRC rivals

After a dominating Rally Croatia, a wrong tyre choice on the final day looked to have undone all Kalle Rovanpera's hard work and left him with a mountain to climb heading into the power stage. That he emerged the winner all the same has surely quelled any lingering doubts that the Finn is the man to beat in the 2022 WRC

WRC
Apr 25, 2022
How M-Sport's faith in Loubet led to a WRC reprieve after a dismal 2021 Prime

How M-Sport's faith in Loubet led to a WRC reprieve after a dismal 2021

It's fair to say 2021 was a year to forget for Pierre-Louis Loubet. A maiden full World Rally Championship season offered hope but soon turned into a nightmare that ended in hospital, after being hit by a car in a road traffic accident. Now handed a lifeline by M-Sport, the Frenchman is desperate to rebuild his career

WRC
Apr 20, 2022
Why WRC mechanics deserve more respect Prime

Why WRC mechanics deserve more respect

The drivers get the glare of attention, but it’s the mechanics who are key to the operation of any World Rally Championship car. Motorsport.com donned a set of overalls and joined M-Sport on a Belgian national rally event to get an inside look into the life of a rally mechanic.

WRC
Apr 17, 2022
The African McRae aiming to become a WRC pioneer Prime

The African McRae aiming to become a WRC pioneer

Taking his first step into the Junior World Rally Championship category, McRae Kimathi - named after 1995 world champion Colin - found himself in the unfamiliar climes of Sweden's snow and ice. Having impressed, Kimathi hopes to blaze a trail to the top level of WRC and help other African drivers to step onto the ladder

WRC
Mar 8, 2022