Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Elfyn Evans was the fastest driver through the shakedown stage of the WRC Croatia Rally 2021 as drivers got to grips with the new event and tarmac surfaces.
The event marks the first pure asphalt rally for Evans at the Toyota team, setting a time of 2:45.1, 0.7 seconds faster than the Hyundai i20 of Thierry Neuville.
Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä finished third in another Yaris, 1.3 seconds down on his team-mate.
“It’s quite difficult to go back and forth [from service] so that limits what you can do remotely, but we tried some different map settings and just confirmed the work we did at the test really,” Evans told wrc.com.
“I think there are certain sections of the rally where you would like to have something like a racing car, very free and very hard set-up,”
“But then of course there are sections in which you almost need a gravel car to be honest because it’s so dirty. Set-up is definitely a compromise and you need a car that is quite progressive and allows you to feel the grip.”
Rovanperä initially set the pace as he set off first through the shakedown while Evans made it to the top of the times in his second run before improving further on his third and final run
Ott Tänak finished the day 1.5 seconds behind Evans, while Sébastien Ogier was a further second behind in fifth place. Takamoto Katsuta sneaked in with a time 3.8 seconds slower than Evans to make it four Yaris’ in the top six.
Adrien Fourmaux finished in seventh place in his first run at an event in a World Rally Car while Gus Greensmith was a further half a second down to round out the top eight.
Teemu Suninen set the pace in WRC2 with a time of 2:55.8 ahead of Nikolay Gryazin, and Mads Østberg whilst Andreas Mikkelsen just missed out on the top three. In WRC3 Nicolas Ciamin was fastest ahead of, Emil Lindholm and Yohan Rossel, Chris Ingram finished in fifth place.
Raul Badiu finished fastest of the JWRC runners as they get their season underway, Martin Koči finished second while British driver Jon Armstrong finished in third; William Creighton ended the session in seventh.