Elfyn Evans takes the start of the 91st WRC Monte-Carlo Rally. Pic: Getty Images.

Elfyn Evans Tied For Lead In Croatia With WRC Title Rival

By Ian Gordon

Elfyn Evans is locked in a fierce battle with WRC title rival Thierry Neuville – with the duo unable to be separated after the opening day of Rally Croatia.

The Welsh ace claimed the lead on the penultimate stage of the day but saw that slim advantage wiped out on the final leg on what was the longest day of the rally, featuring 119.74 competitive kilometres.

“This morning especially the roads were getting dirtier with every car so that helped us to be faster than the guys behind but not quite as fast as Thierry,” said the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT driver who trails Neuville by six points in the title standings.

“The first stage was quite slippery but through the morning we got a bit more comfortable and the pace started to come. It was a pretty good fight this afternoon after Thierry had a puncture: then the gap was very close, and it was just a matter of a few seconds either way in each stage.

“The car’s generally been good and the balance has been reasonable, but tomorrow could be quite different with the weather and we’re expecting a challenging day.”

Four stages during the morning took the crews south-west from Zagreb towards the Adriatic Sea, and were then repeated in reverse order during the afternoon. Weather conditions were mainly dry and sunny, but rain and even snow during the days leading up to the rally meant grip levels were constantly changing.

Rally route

In such conditions, road position was an important factor and Evans made good use of running second on the road, winning the second stage of the day to end the morning in second overall just 8.6s from the lead.

In the afternoon, Evans took another stage win in SS6, which moved him to within 0.1s of leader Neuville (Hyundai), and then claimed the rally lead in SS7 by a slim margin of 1.6s. That advantage was nullified in the day’s final test to leave the two championship rivals equal on overall time to a tenth of a second.

Saturday runs to a more typical format than Friday, with a loop of four stages to the west and south of Zagreb to be run twice either side of mid-day service. A total of 108.76 competitive kilometres will be driven.

End of day one (Friday):
1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 1h05m15.3s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +0.0s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +6.6s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +41.1s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +52.7s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m37.8s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +2m37.8s
8 Grégoire Munster/Louis Louka (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +3m07.3s
9 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Citroën C3 Rally2) +3m48.3s
10 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroën C3 Rally2) +4m19.4s
(Results as of 19:00 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)

 

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