MOTORSPORT NEWSRally

OGIER LEADS IN CROATIA AS NEUVILLE SUFFERS TORRID MORNING

Sébastien Ogier stormed into the lead of the Croatia Rally on Saturday morning as a troubled Thierry Neuville forfeited his overnight advantage.

The world champion won two of the four asphalt speed tests south-west of Zagreb to relegate the Belgian and head a Toyota Yaris one-two. Elfyn Evans was 7.0sec behind with a frustrated Neuville 19.6sec off the lead in his Hyundai i20.

It all went wrong for Neuville in the Zagreb service park when he opted for a mix of hard and soft compound Pirelli P Zero tyres for the morning. With the softs on the rear, his i20 slid off the optimum line and he lost 12.0sec in the opening special stage to plunge to third.

 

Neuville stalled his engine at the start of the following test and brake problems in the final stage added to his woes.

After winning three consecutive stages yesterday afternoon to climb to second, Ogier was equally combative this morning. With hard tyres on all four corners, he was fastest in the first and last tests.

“It was pretty clear that was the [tyre] choice this morning,” Ogier said. “We were a bit surprised to see the choice of the Hyundais, but as we are still learning the tyres you’re never sure 100 per cent we make the right call. I was pretty confident and luckily for us it was confirmed in the stages where the tyres worked well.”

Evans followed his team-mate past Neuville on the dry roads, which were again littered with loose gravel. The Welshman won one stage to keep Ogier within touching distance.

Neuville held a 17.9sec advantage over team-mate Ott Tänak, who took the same tyre package. Tänak did not drop as much time and described his selection as ‘so-so’.

Adrien Fourmaux climbed to fifth when Craig Breen stopped to change a puncture after hitting a kerb in his i20 just 80 metres into the opening stage. The Irishman was stopped for two minutes and dropped to ninth.

Fourmaux continued to excel on his top-flight debut, setting second fastest time in his Ford Fiesta in the opening stage. The Frenchman stretched his advantage over Pierre-Louis Loubet in sixth to 32.4sec.

Loubet demoted Gus Greensmith, who had half a minute in hand over Takamoto Katsuta’s Yaris. The Japanese driver ensured a clean sweep of stage victories for Toyota by winning the second test.

Behind Breen, Mads Østberg completed the leaderboard in his Citroën C3 Rally2 after trading places with WRC2 rival Nikolay Gryazin

Adrien Fourmaux continued to shine on Saturday morning