Ogier takes Croatia lead after Neuville and Evans errors

A crazy stage 18 has turned Croatia Rally on its head


Croatia Rally has been completely turned on his head by a slew of driver errors on the Zagorska Sela test, handing Sébastien Ogier the rally lead.

Zagorska Sela, which will also be the powerstage later, caught out half of the entire Rally1 field, with four drivers going off the road with differing consequences.

Elfyn Evans had spent much of the rally trying to keep pace with erstwhile leader Thierry Neuville and was first of the lead contenders to hit trouble. He over-rotated his car through a right-hander and hit a bank, spinning him around and lodging a tree branch in his car. He lost 19.6s to Ogier but, amazingly, remained in second place.

Neuville had led for much of the rally but a pace note that was delivered too late meant he was too fast into a left-hander, with his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 running up a bank and coming to an abrupt halt. That cost him 23.3s, dropping him behind both Ogier and Evans into third place.

“I don’t know, when I got the pace note it was far too late,” said Neuville. “We lost 20s to Ogier so…it’s a shame because everything was going well.

“The car is OK,” confirmed Neuville, though it was sporting plenty of rear-right bodywork damage and the upper plane of his rear wing was missing.

Adrien Fourmaux hit an anti-cut marker late on the stage, breaking the steering arm on his Ford Puma Rally1. He pulled over mid-stage, replaced the steering arm and then pressed on to the finish at full speed, losing 15 minutes.

“Sometimes it bends, sometimes it breaks,” said Fourmaux of the steering arm. “This time, it broke. Sometimes you only get a puncture. We are here.”

His new target will be to reach the finish and also push for powerstage points. Should he finish the rally, he will still bank fifth-place points from Saturday should he reach the finish on Sunday, thanks to the new-for-2024 points system.

Ott Tänak in fourth place also had a near-miss, going off the road entirely but surviving without any lasting damage and with minimal time loss compared to the others that hit strife.


“It was a bit more than a moment,” said Tänak. “It was far, far off [the road]. Luckily all OK. But once again I had a big opening in a braking and I was a passenger.”

Those moments have turned the Sunday points standings on their head. Takamoto Katsuta leads by 3.9s from Tänak, while Ogier is a further 1.5s behind. Those dramas have elevated Andreas Mikkelsen and Grégoire Munster to fourth and fifth in the day standings, with the final points places held by Evans and Neuville.