What a sensational, magnificent event that was! The World Rally Championship’s first ever visit to Croatia certainly delivered.
Sébastien Ogier hogged the headlines for his antics on and off the stages, but ultimately his 51st victory in the WRC will be remembered as a classic where he overturned a 3.9-second deficit to beat Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans to first place by 0.6s.
Here are DirtFish’s voice of rally Colin Clark’s driver ratings from the inaugural WRC Rally Croatia.
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Sébastien Ogier 9/10
Rally Croatia result: 1st
It wasn’t the perfect rally by any stretch for Ogier but it was the perfect demonstration of just why he’s a seven-time world champion and quite possibly the greatest driver to have ever graced rallying. The way he managed to compose himself, focus and set about his work in such determined fashion following his pre-stage dramas on Sunday morning speaks volumes about the man.
Managing to secure maximum points with a devastatingly brutal charge through the powerstage had all the hallmarks of vintage Ogier. Ominously moves into the lead of the championship and all the others now find themselves in pursuit. And we know how difficult that’s proved to be in bygone seasons.
Elfyn Evans 9/10
Rally Croatia result: 2nd
Another hugely impressive performance from the young Welshman here taking him perilously close to his first win of the season. He’ll be disappointed for sure not to have claimed the win but Evans will take solace from the fact that he is yet to find his best form this season yet still finds himself right there in the thick of the championship battle. Championship challenges are mounted on the back of consistency and results that are ground out when things aren’t exactly 100%. That first win of 2021 is surely not that far off.
Kalle Rovanperä 1/10
Rally Croatia result: DNF
Binned his car just a few kilometers into the event and reminded us all that he is still a very young man with an awful lot to learn. This was definitely a case of inexperience costing him dearly. Rovenpara knew almost from the start-line that the car was understeering badly but sadly didn’t have the nouse to nurse his car to the end of one of the shortest stages in the championship and at least give himself the chance to remedy the problem. What we know about Kalle though is that he is a fast learner and perhaps the value of this off will only show itself in future events.
Takamoto Katsuta 10/10
Rally Croatia result: 6th
Six, six, six! It’s a sequence of numbers that some folk really don’t like the look off, but Taka-san might well think differently. Three starts in 2021 and three sixth place finishes. It’s remarkable consistency from a driver who, last season, seemed to have miraculously morphed into a crash test dummy. But more important than that was the pace that the young Japanese charger showed over the weekend. Two stages wins on Saturday confirmed many’s belief that Katsuta could well end up as the surprise package of the season.
Thierry Neuville 9/10
Rally Croatia result: 3rd
Had it not been for a disastrous tire choice on Saturday’s opening loop, then I think Neuville could well have won this one. OK, he had a half spin on a messy hairpin and went wide on a corner during the powerstage but Neuville definitely had the pace last week. The communication issues that plagued his new partnership with Martijn Wydaeghe during the opening two rounds seems to have been resolved and Neuville has an ability to find pace and performance from his Hyundai that his team-mates quite clearly can’t.
Ott Tänak 6/10
Rally Croatia result: 4th
It’s been seven weeks since Tänak’s dominant win in the Arctic Circle, but I hardly recognized the Tänak that showed up here in Croatia. In that opening loop of stages on Friday it was blindingly clear that the Tänak/Hyundai WRC combo that won in Finland was a completely different beast to the Tänak/Hyundai WRC combo we were seeing here. It’s almost schizophrenic it’s that extreme. Tänak just hasn’t got to grips with this car on asphalt, and with three sealed-surface rounds to come this season, some serious thinking has to be done. It’s testament to Tänak’s considerable skills that he managed to secure a fourth place finish and just about keep himself in the championship hunt.
Craig Breen 4/10
Rally Croatia result: 8th
Craig Breen has become a victim of his own brilliance. He jumped in the car in Estonia last year and secured a brilliant second place finish. Similarly, after some considerable time out of the car he delivered the goods in Rovaniemi. So, in his first outing in a Hyundai WRC on asphalt we all expected him to jump in, drive like the clappers and fight for a podium finish. Well it’s just not like that on asphalt, particularly in this car. Just ask Séb Loeb, or more pertinently, Ott Tänak. Breen will be more upset than anyone about this week’s performance but a storming run through the powerstage means he leaves Croatia with a modicum of self respect and confidence knowing that he’s contributed to the team’s championship efforts this week.
Pierre-Louis Loubet 3/10
Rally Croatia result: 29th
Sadly not too many positives for the young Corsican to take away from this one. Crashed out of the rally on Saturday and struggled to find any decent pace. The emergence of Katsuta and Formaux as genuine prospects will only increase the pressure on Loubet to up his performances and show that he can genuinely be considered a contender at the highest level.
Adrien Formaux 10/10
Rally Croatia result: 5th
Just the most sensational debut in a World Rally Car. Was unlucky on a couple of occasions not to take a debut stage win but he demonstrated pace and ability that bode incredibly well for the future. His composure was almost as impressive as his pace. At times, he made it all look too easy. Malcolm Wilson has shown remarkable faith in this young man and has given him the opportunity to shine on the world stage. Once again, Wilson’s wisdom seems to be well placed.
Gus Greensmith 7/10
Rally Croatia result: 7th
Chris Patterson has been parachuted into the co-driver’s seat to try and save the underperforming Englishman’s season and on the evidence of this performance, it would appear to be an inspired move. Greensmith set some encouraging times and seemed more composed and more focused than he’s been in the past. And once again, he managed to bring his car home without any major incidents. Croatia could well prove to be the solid foundation that Greensmith needs in order to build and move forward.