Croatia lead gap tightens as Evans wins SS11

First outright stage victory of the weekend for Toyota driver means team-mate Ogier's lead is down to 4.1s


Elfyn Evans won the penultimate stage of Rally Croatia’s Saturday morning loop to cut the gap to his rally-leading Toyota team-mate Sébastien Ogier to under five seconds.

Evans was yet to place outside the top four on any of the stages prior to the 6.9-mile Krašić – Vrškovac, but he only had one stage win to his name on the World Rally Championship’s newest asphalt event.

The 2020 WRC runner-up put that right on SS11, beating Friday’s rally leader Thierry Neuville by 0.8 seconds.

It marks the first-time Neuville has posted a top-five stage time on Saturday after tire-choice struggles dropped him from first to third on the opening two stages.

Evans is just 4.1s behind his seven-time champion team-mate Ogier, while Neuville has cut the gap to Ogier 15s with one stage of the morning loop remaining.

“Very fast stage, some slippy sections,” Ogier said after the stage. “It’s not a big gap [to Evans] so we have to keep pushing.”


Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak was sixth quickest on the stage and slower than Neuville for the first time on Saturday. He’s now 20.4s adrift of Neuville’s third place.

On his top-flight WRC debut, Adrien Fourmaux made it four top-five stage times in a row aboard his Ford Fiesta WRC to solidify his fifth place overall.

Having overtaken Fourmaux’s team-mate Gus Greensmith for sixth place on the previous stage, 2C Competition Hyundai’s Pierre-Louis Loubet stretched his advantage over the M-Sport Ford driver with a time that was two seconds quicker.


Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

However, they were both beaten by Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta, fresh from taking his second-ever stage win on Saturday’s second stage. The Japanese driver was third fastest on SS11 and is now 33.1s off Greensmith’s seventh place.

Craig Breen was the slowest of the nine leading World Rally Car entries on the stage. Breen lost over two minutes on Saturday’s opener and dropped from fifth to ninth in the overall standings with no spare tires left aboard his i20 Coupe WRC for the rest of the morning loop.

Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 driver Nikolay Gryazin is the new leader of the WRC2 class, having beaten the defending series champion Mads Østberg by 3.7s on the stage.

M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen was just two tenths slower than Gryazin’s stage-winning time, but he picked up a 10-second penalty for checking in too late and is now over a minute adrift of the lead in third place in the category classification.

The lead also changed hands in WRC3 as Yohan Rossel lost over two minutes and gifted the class lead to three-time European Rally Champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who had been dueling with Rossel all morning. Emil Lindholm is up to second place now, while Rossel has tumbled down the order to fourth place behind Chris Ingram.

SS11 times

1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 5m36.8s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +0.8s
3 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +1.1s
4 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +1.3s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +2.4s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +2.9s

Leading positions after SS11

1 Ogier/Ingrassia 1h26m29s
2 Evans/Martin +4.1s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe +15s
4 Tänak/Järveoja +35.4s
5 Fourmaux/Jamoul +1m14.3s
6 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (2C Competition Hyundai) +1m43.4s
7 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +1m51.2s
8 Katsuta/Barritt +2m24.3s
9 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +3m24.6s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Aleksandrov Konstantin (Volkswagen Polo GTI) +4m56.6s

Words:Joshua Suttill

Photography:Toyota Gazoo Racing, Hyundai Motorsport