Neuville Leads from Ogier in Croatia

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville held the overnight lead from Sebastien Ogier following the first day of Rally Croatia's World Rally Championship debut, covering eight stages with challenging variations in the quality of the surface, one corner to the next. Croatia is the WRC's first all-asphalt rally since Germany 2019.

Current championship leader, Toyota's 20-year-old star Kalle Rovanpera, held a distinct advantage heading the field into the opening stage, but the WRC's youngest-ever points leader endured a nightmare opening stage, when he rolled out of the rally on an acute right-hand corner less than a mile from the end of the stage.

Rovanpera's demise handed the role of leading the field to Neuville, who duly won three of the four stages in the morning loop, failing to capitalize on Stage 3 when Britain's Elfyn Evans recorded the first fastest time of the day for Toyota. Evans held second place at the end of the first loop, 7.3 seconds behind Neuville and 5s in front of his team-mate, seven-time WRC champion Sebastien Ogier, in third.

In fact, Ogier narrowly avoided coming to grief at the same corner as Rovanpera and was lucky to escape with just a puncture, which cost him only a couple of seconds over the short distance to the stage end, but the Frenchman found his speed on the afternoon run through the loop, winning three of the four stages to pass team mate Evans for second place. This put Ogier well and truly back in the lead battle and his stage 7 win also his 600th WRC career stage win!

24th April, 2021