Sebastien Ogier wins WRC Croatia as Neuville and Evans suffer setbacks

Sebastien Ogier wins WRC Croatia as Neuville and Evans suffer setbacks

Sebastien Ogier secured the win in WRC Croatia after overcoming World Rally Championship rivals Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans in a dramatic finish.

Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier prevailed in WRC Croatia by capitalizing on errors made by Thierry Neuville and teammate Elfyn Evans, which secured his 100th podium finish in his World Rally Championship career.

The trailing duo had been locked in close a battle for the top spot for the entirety of the rally, with Ogier appearing to take the lead heading into the last day. The Toyota driver went on to win the first race of his 2024 part time campaign by 9.7 seconds over Evans while Neuville had to settle for third place [+45.9 seconds] after a costly error ruined his run.

“It’s been a tough weekend,” said Ogier. “We knew coming here that start position wold be an issue.

“We never gave up, we put pressure as much as we could. It was an eventful weekend for us, I never had so many moments in one rally in my life. But most importantly we bring it home with a win.”

Ogier was also feeling somewhat sentimental at the finish, looking back on his storied career after scoring 100th podium: “It’s huge numbers. Who would have thought that 15 years ago? So I enjoy every moment, I enjoy every opportunity I have to still drive these cars. It’s nice to see that we still have some speed.”

However Ogier’s rally wasn’t without incident: on Saturday, he barely avoided oversteering into a fence and later on Sunday morning, he miscalculated and went off up a bank but did not suffer any damage.

Meanwhile, both Toyota drivers suffered setbacks in the first pass of the Zagorska Sela test. Neuville overshot a turn and struck a bank, which he attributed to a late pacenote, while Evans overrotated on a right-hander and hit a bank and spun around but fortunately caused minimal damage.

Hyundai’s Ott Tanak overcame a close call in stage 18 affter he understeered off through a field but made it back to the road without incident to hold fourth place [+1m02.3s]. The difference came through his performance on Sunday; he added 10 points to raise his total score to 20 after finishing second on Sunday and second on the powerstage.

Meanwhile, Adrien Fourmaux of M-Sport lost fifth place overall to Takamoto Katsuta  [+1m57.1s]. With the new Super Sunday points structure in place, Katsuta led the Toyota group on the last day of WRC Croatia Rally despite finishing the race in a lonely fifth place.

He finished the last day’s four stages faster than anyone else, scoring seven points overall and collecting an additional two for his performance on the powerstage.

It was unbelievable that Adrien Fourmaux made it through the rally at all. On Zagorska Sela’s opening pass, the M-Sport’s team leader struck a concrete anti-cut sign and damaged his steering arm, forcing him to stop mid-race to fix it.

Despite losing 15 minutes making the repairs, he was still able to accumulate 8 points and earn an additional 5 points by going fastest on the powerstage, thanks to the new points system.

Gregoire Munster and Andreas Mikkelsen placed sixth and seventh overall. After three incidents in the season’s first three rounds, Munster had accomplished his goal of a clean, drama-free rally, but Mikkelsen periodically lost control of his Hyundai and ran off the road.

Nikolay Gryazin secured the WRC2 class victory and eighth place overall after overcoming Citroën teammate Yohan Rossel.

Gryazin had a half-minute lead on Friday although Rossel was quick on Saturday. However, a puncture for the 2021 WRC3 champion and a 10-second penalty for a timecard mix-up simply wasted too much time for him to attempt a comeback for the lead.

Gus Greensmith and Sami Pajari had to contend for the last spot in the top 10 overall after Fourmaux’s lengthy break to repair a damaged steering arm which forced him to tumble down the order. It was simply a battle for honors between the two drivers since none of them was registered for WRC2 points.

After losing 12.5 seconds on Zagorska Sela, Pajari managed to catch up to the Toksport driver and hold onto the position, despite the fact that he clipped a bridge during the powerstage.

Pepe López secured third place points in WRC2 after holding off Nicolas Ciamin for fifth among the Rally2 contenders.

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