Rally: Ogier starts with a bang and ends with a victory
ZAGREB: Frenchman Sébastien Ogier won Rally Croatia on Sunday April 25 by just six-tenths of a second after his Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans slipped through the last of the race’s thousands of corners.
Ogier’s success can be clouded by the repercussions of an incident before the first stage of the day.
Evans led by 3.9 seconds in the final tournament and started last.
While Ogier, driving aggressively, made a small mistake, Evans, more conservative, had been without error until he bounced off the shoulder in the last corner.
“That last turn! said the Welshman on arrival. “I just got started and completely missed the next turn. All was not lost there, but I would say a second is gone.”
“It’s a shame, but it was a big fight all weekend and hats off to Seb for the last stage.”
In last season’s championship, Evans competed in the end-of-season Monza Rally at the top of the standings, but crashed. His briefs opened the door for Ogier who won the race and won the title.
Sunday’s late drama ended an eventful day for Ogier.
The Frenchman took the lead but suffered a collision on the road towards the start of the first stage of the day.
Amateur video showed him pulling into the right lane of a road and colliding with a passing car, damaging the passenger side of his Toyota Yaris.
In another video, the Frenchman leaves the scene to reach the start line on time as police surround his stationary Toyota and try to hold him back.
For the moment, this incident has no consequences for the French.
TOYOTA ONE-TWO FINISH
He covered the four stages with his dented passenger door held in place by a thick gray tape and with co-pilot Julien Ingrassia wearing glasses.
Evans took the lead by winning the first two stages of the day and was still ahead in the Power Stage final.
After Ogier crossed the line, with Evans still on the course, the Frenchman said he didn’t think he made up enough time.
“I think it won’t be enough for the win,” Ogier said. “It has been an eventful weekend for me after this morning. We are here and we have to look to the future.”
Toyota took the first two places in a weekend that started badly for them when general driver Kalle Rovanpera crashed.
“I don’t know what to say,” said team sporting director Kaj Lindstrom. “Elfyn scared me a little on that last corner but luckily he got through it! What a battle: the two guys in just 0.6 seconds. It’s awesome!”
“Of course that’s a very big thing for the team.”
Thierry Neuville, driving a Hyundai, completed the podium on Croatian asphalt, 8.1 seconds from Ogier. The Belgian also won the third stage of the day.
The victory propelled Ogier to the top of the World Rally Championship (WRC) standings after round three of the season.
He is eight points ahead of Neuville and Evans two points further.
Estonian Ott Tanak, who finished fourth in his Hyundai on Sunday, is also fourth overall, followed by Finn Rovanpera, who crashed in the opening kilometers.
The first WRC event in Croatia was supposed to take place behind closed doors, but crowds still gathered by the side of the road.
The pilots will then meet on the Portuguese gravel from May 20 to 23, for the fourth round of the 12 scheduled.