Croatia Rally – Day One Report

Croatia Rally – Day One Report

Zagreb, Croatia, April 21, 2023
Hyundai Motorsport has completed the opening day of action at Rally Croatia, round four of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), in which it is competing this weekend to commemorate and honour Craig Breen, who died in a pre-event test in the country last week.
The team was joined by the entire WRC community on Thursday to mourn Craig and reflect on his life and passion for rallying, alongside his close friends and co-driver James Fulton.
As a mark of respect for a much-loved colleague, Hyundai Motorsport is rallying in Croatia with a special livery in the colours of the Irish flag, for Craig.
With thoughts and memories of Craig firmly in mind, the rally began on Friday morning with the opening loop consisting of four tarmac stages: Mali Lipovec – Grdanjci (SS1/SS5, 19.20km), Stojdraga – Hartje (SS2/SS6, 25.67km), Krašić – Vršovac (SS3/SS7, 11.11km) and Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički (SS4/SS8, 9.11km).
Fittingly, it was Hyundai Motorsport duo Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe who took an early lead with a stage win in SS2.
The pair extended their advantage to 16.1s heading into lunchtime service with Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm in fourth overall.
The afternoon saw the Belgians’ lead reduced to 5.7 seconds but still ended the day on top of the overall classification.
Lappi scored a stage win in SS6, briefly moving up to third place; the Finnish crew ultimately completed Friday in fourth place, 3.4 seconds from the provisional podium positions.

Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
Belgian crew took the lead of the rally after winning SS2
An assured performance allowed the duo to retain a 5.7s lead after eight stages
Neuville said: “First of all, I am happy to get to the end of the day in the lead of the rally; this is the best result we could expect especially after the incredibly tough week we have had as a team. It was a big relief as we passed the final stage end and saw we were still in front. It has not been an easy day; this morning, it was tough and more challenging than we were expecting. We changed the dampers on the car and felt more comfortable, but I still don’t feel that I can commit 100%. We were fast but we weren’t chasing those final tenths of a second which make all the difference. The next two days will also be challenging; we have a new stage which was dirty in the recce, and we must remember we will be starting from the back of the field, so it could be tough.”

Crew Notes: Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (#4 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
Finnish crew in contention for a podium in Rally Croatia
The pair hold fourth place after Friday’s eight stages, and scored a stage win in SS6
Lappi said: “This morning, we didn’t have the greatest pace, but we also carried a disadvantage that we didn’t do these stages last year. We were lacking a bit on the pace notes as a result, particularly on the high-speed parts; we needed to make sure they were correct so we could commit more. There were lots of places where I know I could gain on the second pass, and we made good progress. The conditions in the afternoon were much better and more equal for everyone. The gravel crew notes were also more precise which gave me extra confidence. It was quite an enjoyable afternoon. Tomorrow could be a bit ‘easier’ for me as I have done all but one of the stages before. I’m looking forward to it.”

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “We are obviously satisfied to be leading the rally after the first day, but we cannot forget that Ogier and Rovanperä both had punctures that influenced the results. That said, we can see that our car is competitive on tarmac, maybe not exactly as competitive as our immediate rivals, but it’s a solid start for the rest of the weekend. We know it will be a challenging remainder of the event. In addition, the team – as everyone can well appreciate – is drawing on its reserves and we will take each day as it comes. Thierry and Martijn have done an excellent job today to adapt to the conditions and to avoid trouble. We know the grip levels will be worse tomorrow so we will have to find the right balance to prepare our cars for whatever conditions we will face.”

Saturday at a glance
Eight stages will be held on the penultimate day over a total competitive distance of 116.60km.
The loop will cover Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh (SS9/SS13, 23.76km), Vinsk Vrh – Duga Resa.
Lunchtime service will separate the two loops.

Classification after Day One
1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid 1:16:02.4
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +5.7
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +30.0
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid +33.4
5 S. Ogier V. Landais Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +1:23.7
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:52.1
7 P. L. Loubet N. Gilsoul Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +1:52.9
8 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:40.3

Hyundai Motorsport

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