Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä was fastest on a tight Croatia Rally shakedown stage, edging Thierry Neuville by just a single tenth of a second.
Ott Tänak led the way after the opening run through the 2.27-mile Okić stage, but the times quickly tumbled and Rovanperä jumped to the top of the timesheet on his third and final run, setting a best effort of 1m52.5 seconds.
But while Rovanperä was clearly enjoying the Okić road, the same could not be said for Elfyn Evans.
Evans arrives in Croatia needing a strong result to get his championship back on track, but he was 4.5 seconds slower than what Rovanperä managed on his first three attempts.
It meant he needed to take a fourth stab at the stage, and he improved by 2.2 seconds, but it was still only good enough for seventh, and was some 2.3 seconds slower than Rovanperä’s best effort.
Neuville had been somewhat off the pace in his first three attempts, but he took an additional fourth run through the stage, improving by two seconds to jump up to second.
That left Tänak in third, 0.8 seconds off the pace, while Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi – who is making his Rally1 debut this weekend – was fourth fastest.
It was an impressive time from Lappi, but he’s not getting carried away with the knowledge that the weather could change things considerably over the weekend.
“It felt good. Now it’s dry conditions and the rain is during the weekend” said Lappi.
“There will be a lot of variation, so it’s not going to be so simple.”
Craig Breen was the fastest of the M-Sport drivers in fifth, having set an identical time to Lappi, while Gus Greensmith was sixth, although he was a second slower than his team-mate.
Oliver Solberg had a wild moment on his first run through the stage, which led to him missing a junction. He half spun his Hyundai i20 N Rally1, losing him two or three seconds, but he bounced back on his final attempt to end up eighth fastest.
Pierre-Louis Loubet is another driver having his maiden Rally1 outing this weekend, and he got off to a reasonable start to end up ninth.
He was a tenth faster than Takamoto Katsuta who rounded out the top 10, but more impressively, he was a full second quicker than his M-Sport team-mate Adrien Fourmaux, who ended up 11th, a full 4.5 seconds off the ultimate pace.
Fastest shakedown times
1. Kalle Rovanperä / Jonne Haltunnen 1m52.5s
2. Thierry Neuville / Martijn Wydaeghe 1m52.6s
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja 1m53.3s
4. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm 1m53.8s
5. Craig Breen / Paul Nagle 1m53.8s
6. Gus Greensmith / Jonas Andersson 1m54.8s
7. Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin 1m54.8s
8. Oliver Solberg / Elliott Edmondson 1m54.8s
9. Pierre-Louis Loubet / Vincent Landais 1m54.9s
10. Takamoto Katsuta / Aaron Johnston 1m55.0s