Neuville retakes Croatia lead, Tänak survives near miss

Neuville edges back ahead of Evans while Tänak pulls off a lucky escape


Thierry Neuville has narrowly reestablished his lead of Rally Croatia early on Saturday morning, having been tied for the lead with Elfyn Evans overnight.

Rain had previously been forecast but it has yet to arrive, so Neuville’s disadvantage of last Rally1 car on the road was somewhat reduced. Every Rally1 crew left Saturday morning service with two wet tires in the boot.

That early lack of rain meant a cleaner road for the World Rally Championship points leader, who proceeded to go faster than Evans on the Smerovišće test to make first place his own. The pair were tied on time again on the Stojdraga, so Neuville’s lead remains a narrow 0.8s.

“It’s good fun, everybody’s close,” said Evans of his battle with Neuville. “It’s quite surprising on such long stages.”

Sébastien Ogier remains in touch with the leaders in third place, 6.8s behind Neuville.

There was a big moment for Ott Tänak on the Stojdraga stage, as he ran wide at a square left and went up a bank, clipping a kerb in the process.

It damaged the right-rear wheel of his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 but not to a sufficient degree that it halted his progress; he was still 1.1s faster than Adrien Fourmaux, his nearest rival for fourth position.

“It was a lot softer than I expected,” said Tänak of the grassy bank he hit. “I thought the wheel would be gone but we were able to take it diagonally, so it got a bit of extra support.

“I’ve been struggling on braking to turn in and now when the tyre was getting soft in the end, I got a big washout so I went straight. It was a bit sketchy.”

Fourmaux won the Saturday-opening Smerovišće stage, only for Tänak to wipe out the same 1.1s he’d gained on the following test; the pair are still 10.5s apart overall.

Takamoto Katsuta remains sixth, over a minute ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen in the third Hyundai. Grégoire Munster is first car on the road on Saturday and is eighth, 47.2s behind Mikkelsen.

Yohan Rossel is fighting back against his Citroën team-mate Nikolay Gryazin for the lead in WRC2.

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Rossel is hunting down his Citroën team-mate Gryazin for the lead in WRC2

Gryazin had pulled out a half-minute lead across Friday’s eight stages but a whopping stage win on Stojdraga by Rossel, where he was fastest by 7.1s, cut Gryazin’s lead to 22.4s.

“The plan is to keep the pressure,” Rossel declared.

Škoda driver Gus Greensmith, who won’t score points this weekend, is still in third place but was 17s off the pace on Saturday’s second stage; he’s now 22.6s adrift of Rossel.