Toyota boss Jari-Matti Latvala has praised Sebastien Ogier for the “professional and fantastic job” he performed after he was involved in an accident ahead of this morning’s opening Croatia Rally stage.
The collision between another vehicle is understood to have happened on a section of dual carriageway, with the impact causing significant damage to the co-driver’s side of Ogier’s Toyota Yaris World Rally Car.
Both Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia escaped the shunt uninjured but were forced to carry out remedial work on the supermini, which was subsequently deemed safe to continue by FIA technical delegates.
Ogier led going into the final day by 6.9 seconds but had his advantage trimmed by teammate Elfyn Evans to 4.2 seconds on stage 17 before losing top spot to the Welshman on the antepenultimate test.
With one stage remaining – the 8.8-mile ‘Zagorska Sela to Kumrovec’ power stage – Evans enjoys a slender 3.9 second buffer, with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville a further 4.1 seconds adrift in third place.
For the entirety of the final leg of the Tarmac counter, Ingrassia has resorted to wearing goggles inside the car to protect his eyes from fine particles of dust and dirt that are managing to find their way into the cabin.
Despite the magnitude of the damage, Latvala confirmed the car was “fine” from both a technical and performance perspective and was confident seven-time champion Ogier would push for the victory.
“The engineers and the designers, they do a big effort to get the aerodynamics working in the car, so obviously that is upset,” said the Finn.
“The aerodynamics now – how the airflow should be going – it’s not getting better. For sure, it is difficult to say how much it is affecting the speed but clearly it is not making the car better or faster.
“But I know Sebastien very well and this incident was definitely not giving you the best feeling to start the stages – but he is a professional and he has done a fantastic job in that sense [after the accident].
“Now is the time to reset and after the reset I still expect he can get the feeling and I am still confident he will be able to fight – even for the victory.”