Neuville puncture cuts Croatia lead to 0.1s

Clipping a rock cost leader 10s on SS6, bringing Elfyn Evans within touching distance


Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans are separated by only 0.1 seconds in the battle for victory on Rally Croatia, as the championship leader suffered a puncture on stage six.

Four fastest times on the first five stages had allowed Neuville to build a 10.1s lead on the first day of action in Croatia; both title contenders were aided by their road position.

But Neuville then clipped a rock on the Ravna Gora test, causing a puncture to the front-right tire of the leading Hyundai.

“It was a stone in the road, which I tried to avoid but I must have been that close,” said Neuville, pinching his fingers together.

Rather presciently, he followed up with some guesswork: “We will lose 10 seconds, I would say.” Indeed, Neuville had lost exactly 10s to Evans.

Sébastien Ogier continues to hold third place but was left exasperated by the changeable weather on the second run of Platak.

Given his part-time schedule Ogier started only sixth on the road for Croatia’s opening day, putting him several cars further back than leading duo Neuville and Evans.


Evans is ready to pounce for the rally lead

When hail started to fall during the Platak test, making the road more slippery for later drivers coming through, Ogier was left shaking his head at the finish line.

“If it carries on like this we have no chance. Competing against a guy driving on the dry when you have a wet road is challenging,” he said, referring to Neuville and Evans.

With Neuville’s stage six drama Ogier’s deficit to the rally lead has been cut to 18s.

Neuville also highlighted that not having a route note crew for the re-run of Platak, due to running both passes effectively back-to-back with regroup and a tire fitting zone in between, was problematic.

“It’s very dangerous, to be honest, because we have no information from the gravel crew and at that speed that we’re going, there are plenty of surprises. You have to trust your feeling, keep your eyes wide open but still it’s really dangerous. Nobody told us that it’s going to be snowing in there!”

Ott Tänak has been able to extend his advantage over Adrien Fourmaux in the battle for fourth place to 7.7s. After struggling early doors Tänak said that Ravna Gora was the “first time we’re a bit more competitive this weekend”, which he put down to improved differential settings.

Toyota’s third car, driven by Takamoto Katsuta, remains sixth, 1m31s off the leading pace. A further 25.6s behind is Andreas Mikkelsen in the third Hyundai, while Grégoire Munster remains eighth.

Munster also suffered a brief scare on stage six: “There was an impact and when I switched the gear it went down two gears, which distracted me a bit,” he said. “Then on the next corner we hit a bit on the rear.”