Sebastien Ogier leads his team mate Elfyn Evans in a Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team one-two as previous rally leader Thierry Neuville fell to third overall after day two of Rally Croatia.
Neuville held a 7.7 second lead going into day two, but a mixed tyre choice of soft and hard Pirelli P-Zero tyres on his Hyundai i20 WRC proved to be the wrong one, and the Belgian lost 12 seconds on the first stage of the day alone and spent the rest of the day playing catch up.
An afternoon switch to hard P-Zero’s all round seemed to ignite a Neuville fight back, as a fastest stage time on the first run of the afternoon was boosted by a puncture to Ogier, causing him to lose 10.1 seconds to put Neuville back within ten seconds of the lead.
In truth though without the puncture Ogier would of had the pace at the front comfortably under control, a fastest time of the final stage of the day extended his lead over his Hyundai rival and Toyota team mate Evans. Evans had been slowly nibbling away at Ogier’s lead across the day, including a fastest time on stage 11 but dropped back again in the final few stages to be 6.9 seconds behind overnight. Neuville was 10.4 behind in third.
Ott Tanak remained fourth having suffered the same tyre woes as his team mate in the morning, and set times that lost him a handful of seconds on each of the days stages. With his team mate Neuville, 26 seconds ahead and fifth place Adrien Fourmaux 51 seconds behind, the Estonian will be looking to score some extra points on the Wolf Power Stage as his fourth place looked secured.
Fourmaux continued to impress further on his WRC debut in the Ford Fiesta WRC with two 2nd fastest stages times across the day ,which saw the Frenchman rise to a solid fifth. His fellow M-Sport Ford team mate Gus Greensmith was in sixth and the Brit finally got the better of Fourmaux with a stage time 0.9 seconds quicker on the final test of the day. Greensmith was very self critical at the end of the morning loop, but a “few strong words” were aimed his way at the service break and his pace improved in the afternoon.
Takamoto Katsuta found himself seventh, but managed to take two fastest stages times on stages 10 and 14. A strong push on Sunday’s stages could see him reel in Greensmith who is just over 20 seconds ahead of him. Behind him was Craig Breen, who was not enjoying his rally and stated that it is clear he is a long way from where he should be. A puncture at the beginning of the first stage of the day cost the Irishman two minutes as a change was needed, giving him the worst possible start to the day.
Pierre-Louis Loubet crashed out on stage 14, his Hyundai i20 getting stuck in a ditch – though he will restart on Sunday under the Rally2 restart rules. This meant that the top 10 overall was rounded out by the WRC2 pace setters of Mads Ostberg and Teemu Suninen.
WRC Top 3 Overall
1. Sebastien Ogier – Toyota Yaris WRC – 2:06:35.8
2. Elfyn Evans – Toyota Yaris WRC – +6.9
3. Thierry Neuville – Hyundai i20 WRC – +10.4
FIA World Rally Championship 2
Mads Ostberg extended his lead to just under a minute in the FIA World Rally Championship 2 as his rivals hit trouble on day two in Croatia.
The Citroen C3 Rally2 driver was trading times with both Nikolay Gryazin and Teemu Suninen in the morning, Gryazin actually taking the lead in his VW Polo R5 before Mads hit back to retake the lead. Gryazin was to hit trouble on stage 13, as power steering failure lost the Russian nearly a minute and a half. This was fixed before the next stage and he bounced back to take three fastest stage time on the remaining tests.
With his nearest rivals faltering, Ostberg could ease off and just get to the finish with a lead over Suninen in his Ford Fiesta Rally 2 of just under a minute. Gryazin still remained on the podium overall at the end of day 2.
WRC2 Top 3 Overall
1. Mads Ostberg – Citroen C3 Rally 2 – 2:13:41.8
2. Teemu Suninen – Ford Fiesta Rally 2 – +53.6
3. Nikolay Gryazin – VW Polo R5 – +1:18.5
FIA World Rally Championship 3
Kajetan Kajetanowicz moved into a commanding 46.6 lead in FIA World Rally Champioship 3 as previous overnight leader Yohan Rossel hit trouble. Rossel started the day well with two fastest stage times, but then rolled his Citroen C3 Rally 2. Although he was able to continue, he lost 3 minutes and handed the lead to Kajetanowicz.
The Pole then took 3 fastest stage times in his Skoda Fabia evo Rally2 to cement his lead with Finn Emil Lindholm in another Skoda holding second over night after a relatively drama free day. Brit Chris Ingram kept his nose clean and found himself third overall in another Skoda heading into the final day.
He may have his work cut out to hold onto his position though, as a recovering Rossel is fourth, just 8.4 seconds behind. Niki Mayr-Melnhof who had been third overall, suffered an engine problem on his Ford Fiesta Rally2 and had to retire at service on Saturday morning.
WRC3 Top 3 Overall
1. Kajetan Kajetanowicz – Skoda Fabia evo Rally2 – 2:15:17.2
2. Emil Lindholm – Skoda Fabia evo Rally2 – +46.6
3. Chris Ingram – Skoda Fabia evo Rally2 – +2:53.3
FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Jon Armstrong leads the FIA Junior World Rally Championship going into the final day after long-term leader Martin Koci lost time with a puncture on stage 14.
Having held off Armstrong and Lauri Joona throughout the morning, Koci’s puncture was to dash any hopes of victory as he had to stop and change the wheel. Having battled for second through the morning with Joona, Armstrong pounced into the lead as Koci suffered and also managed to create a 14 second gap to Joona on the same stage. By the end of the day he had extended it to 22.5 seconds.
2020 JWRC runner up Martin Sesks was third just 5.5 seconds behind Joona, and Koci would find himself in fourth, nearly two minutes off the podium. Brit William Creighton was fifth on his JWRC debut, with Sami Pajari sixth.
Raul Badiu and Robert Virves both retired their Ford Fiesta Rally4’s on stage 9. Badiu had wheel damage, while Virves took a wheel off completely.
JWRC Top 3 Overall
1. Jon Armstrong – Ford Fiesta Rally 4 – 2:25:11.2
2. Lauri Joona – Ford Fiesta Rally 4 – +22.5
3. Martin Sesks – Ford Fiesta Rally 4 – +27.7