Ogier capitalises on rivals' misfortune for dramatic win at Croatia Rally

Ogier capitalises on rivals' misfortune for dramatic win at Croatia Rally

Festus Chuma 21:00 - 21.04.2024

The eight-time former world champion clinched a surprise win at Croatia Rally capitalizing on key errors by competitors to secure his 100th podium.

Sebastien Ogier leaped from third to clinch an unexpected victory on a suspense-filled Sunday at the Croatia Rally, benefitting from the missteps of rivals Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans in a turn of events packed with drama and surprise.

The rally, which stretched over three days on the spectator-lined asphalt roads near Zagreb, was poised for a showdown between Neuville in his Hyundai i20 N and Evans in a Toyota GR Yaris. 

The competition was razor-close until the concluding stages on Sunday, with just 2.6 seconds separating the top contenders. However, fortunes shifted dramatically when Neuville misjudged a pace note and veered off the track.

"Arriving too fast into a left-hander, I slid wide and hit a bank, then a tree," Neuville recounted as per WRC portal.

The mishap severely damaged the aerodynamics at the rear of his Hyundai, resulting in a loss of almost 25 seconds.

Evans, who was initially unaware of Neuville's predicament, faced his own troubles when he misjudged a right-hand bend. 

The error caused him to spin, costing him crucial seconds as he struggled to reorient his vehicle. This sequence of events handed Ogier, who had been consistently third since the rally's onset, a lead he would not relinquish.

Sebastien Ogier, who was partnered with co-driver Vincent Landais, managed to maintain his composure and avoid the pitfalls that ensnared his competitors. 

By the end of the rally, he celebrated a 9.7-second lead over Evans, marking not only his second triumph at the Croatia Rally but also his 100th podium in the World Rally Championship (WRC).

"It's been a tough weekend," Ogier admitted. "We faced challenges right from the start, but we kept the pressure up and never gave up. Winning here, amid so many intense moments, feels incredibly rewarding."

Toyota's one-two finish not only solidified Ogier's victory but also extended the manufacturer's lead in the championship standings. 

Despite the setbacks, Neuville managed to limp his damaged car to a third-place finish, securing vital points.

Reflecting on the race, Neuville said, "Today was tough, but we managed to secure important points for the championship. The car was almost undriveable without the rear wing, so pushing harder in the Power Stage wasn't an option."

Ott Tanak, another notable driver for Hyundai, had a close call in SS18 when his car mounted a grass embankment. Nevertheless, he quickly recovered, ultimately securing a commendable fourth-place finish. 

Meanwhile, Takamoto Katsuta of Toyota earned the maximum points available on Super Sunday, climbing to fifth place after Adrien Fourmaux, competing for M-Sport Ford, encountered steering issues that dropped him down the order.

The WRC season continues as the teams prepare for a shift from asphalt to gravel at the upcoming Vodafone Rally de Portugal set to take place in Matosinhos from May 9-12. 

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