Rally Croatia 2024 – Day One Report – Friday

The first full day of competition saw the crews face 119km’s over eight stages. There was the added addition of the fact there would be no mid-day service. Getting through the longest day without any problems would be tricky. Thierry would open the road due to being the championship leader.

First up was SS1 Krašić – Sošice 1 – 23.63 km and the Belgian pairing would take advantage of their road position and win the first stage from Elfyn and Scott by 6.6 seconds. Starting further back down the starting list was Seb and Vincent, and the Toyota crew were third fastest. In WRC2 Nikolay held the lead from Yohan and Pepe.

Onto SS2 Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok 1 – 9.48 km and Elfyn was fastest from Thierry and Ott. The Welshman took 1.7 seconds from the rally leader, the gap now just 4.9 between them. In the M-Sport team, Adrien had a good run that was just 1.8 seconds slower than Ott. In WRC2, Nicolay made two from two, again faster than Yohan and Lauri was third.

The penultimate stage then of the morning loop, SS3 Ravna Gora – Skrad 1 – 10.13 km saw Thierry hit back again from Elfyn, the gap now stretched to 8.4 seconds, whilst Seb was third again. Yohan was quickest in WRC2 from Nikolay and Pepe, with the Frenchman taking 1.7 seconds from Nikolay.

The last stage then before the tyre fitting zone, SS4 Platak 1 – 16.63 km was won by Thierry from Elfyn and Seb. In WRC2 there was no change with the same top three and in the same order, with Nikolay pulling away a little from his French teammate.

Following the break for the tyre fitting zone, the crews returned to SS5 Platak 2 – 16.63 km, with the same stages being run from the morning but in the opposite order. Once again, Thierry was fastest from Elfyn and Seb. The battle continued in WRC2 with Nikolay again fastest from Yohan but only by eight tenths of a second whilst William Creighton in his Fiesta Rally2 was third fastest and this pace moved him up two positions on the leaderboard to eighth in the category.

Into SS6 Ravna Gora – Skrad 2 – 10.13 km Elfyn was fastest from Seb and Ott. There was drama for Thierry who got a puncture in the stage and although he was sixth fastest his lead was now just one tenth of a second! Nikolay continued to lead WRC2 from Yohan and Pepe.

Next up was SS7 Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok 2 – 9.48 km and Seb was fastest from Elfyn by just three tenths of a second and Ott third. Thierry lost more time, dropping two seconds to Seb and a little less to Elfyn and this mean we had a change in the leader, with the Welshman now leading from Thierry and Seb now 17.6 from his teammate and in third. In WRC2 Nikolay was again fastest from Yohan whilst Eyvind Brynildsen third in his Skoda.

The final stage then of the day, SS8 Krašić – Sošice 2 – 23.63 km and Seb was fastest from Adrien and Thierry. That was not the most remarkable thing of this though. With Elfyn going sixth fastest with a time of 13:00.8 and Thierry third with a time of 12:59.2 the two championship rivals ended the first full day of the rally with an identical overall time of 1:05:15. 3. They were tied for the lead. Thierry would hold first place courtesy of his four fastest stage times compared to Elfyn’s two. The other amazing result of this stage would be that Seb reduced the lead to just 6.6 seconds putting him right back in the fight for the lead. There was no change at the top of WRC2, but Emil set a good time in this one, going third fastest and he moved up one position to eighth in the category.

2024 FIA World Rally Championship Round 4,
Croatia Rally 2024, 18-21 April 2024
Emil Lindholm, Reeta Hamalainen, i20 N Rally2, Action during Day 1 of WRC 2 Croatia Rally 2024
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Let’s hear from the drivers and take a look at the top positions.

Classification after Day One

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid 1:05:15
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +0.00
3 S. Ogier V. Landais Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +6.6
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid +41.1
5 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +52.7
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +1:37.8
7 A. Mikkelsen T. Eriksen Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid +2:37.8
8 G. Munster L. Louka Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +3:07.3
9 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia RS +3:48.3
10 Y. Rossel A. Dunand Citroën C3 +4:19.4

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“We gave it everything in every stage and now we are equal with Elfyn overnight. Despite this, we still lost important seconds this afternoon with our puncture, and we struggled generally throughout the day with the balance of the car and road conditions. We knew this afternoon would also be tricky as we were the car that was clearing the roads, so there were no lines for us. Generally, we can be happy with the overall result, and tomorrow we will fight to improve our advantage.”

2024 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Croatia Rally
18 – 21 March 2024
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“At some points we were really frustrated, and our morning was going really downhill. The first loop was quite a struggle; I was fighting with the car while trying to set better times and that caused me to have some moments. Only this afternoon did things come together a bit more and become more consistent in the car. We still didn’t have too much confidence to be committed, but tomorrow we will get back in the car for another show.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It’s been a tough day. We were hoping to be fighting further up the field, but we are starting to get more confident and gaining the speed to compete. I am having some moments inside the car, and I feel like it’s not working as it should be, so we will analyse and sleep on it and hopefully we’ll go better tomorrow. The most important thing is to get a good feeling in the car, which I had in Alba, because today it doesn’t feel right. We will refocus and come back stronger tomorrow.”


Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“This morning especially the roads were getting dirtier with every car so that helped us to be faster than the guys behind but not quite as fast as Thierry. The first stage was quite slippery but through the morning we got a bit more comfortable, and the pace started to come. It was a pretty good fight this afternoon after Thierry had a puncture: then the gap was very close, and it was just a matter of a few seconds either way in each stage. The car’s generally been good, and the balance has been reasonable, but tomorrow could be quite different with the weather and we’re expecting a challenging day.”

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s been a good day for me, I’m really happy. I pushed quite hard all day and I’m quite satisfied with my driving and with the car: the feeling was great, and it was really good fun to drive. We knew our road position would cost us some time and it did this morning. Then we had some bad luck with the weather at the start of the afternoon, but we managed to do this really good time on the last stage. This was very positive for us as it pushed us back into the fight. Tomorrow could be like the start of another rally with the weather forecast: on these dirty and slippery roads, the rain can make it very challenging.”

Takamoto Katsuta

“We knew that this rally can be very demanding, especially as the conditions get worse with every car because of the gravel and mud from the cuts. Still, I was struggling more than I expected this morning. It was not so easy to find the confidence and drive on the level that I wanted. During the whole day I was looking for ways to improve, and in the afternoon we made some changes to the car setup. After this I had a better feeling at the end of the day, and the last stage was much better. Tomorrow the conditions could be completely different, so it will be a new day and I will try to do my best again.”


Day two’s action will see the crews face 108.76km’s over eight stages again. There will be a lunch time service on day two, with the stages being run in the normal format, instead of being reversed. Who will lead the rally at the end of Saturday?

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