Croatia Rally: Day 2 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and Rovanperä remain out front
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team’s Kalle Rovanperä continues to lead the Croatia Rally into the final day with a reduced advantage after further challenging conditions on Saturday.
After winning six out of eight stages on Friday’s opening leg, Rovanperä began day two leading by 1m23.3s (after a penalty was applied to his nearest rival overnight). After the rain that characterised the first day, the weather was generally drier around three of the four repeated stages, but Rovanperä would have a less favourable position in the road order and have to deal with more dirt on the road than those running in front.
The real challenge of the day however was posed by the third stage of the loop, Platak: A new test located further west from Zagreb towards the Adriatic coast, which was hit by heavy rain and thick fog. Rovanperä’s decision to take four rain tyres for the morning loop – when most others only took two – looked as though it would pay off in such treacherous conditions. However, he had to drive much of the stage with a damaged front-left tyre, and as such did well to limit his time loss to nearest rival Ott Tänak (the only other driver on four rain tyres) to 54.5 seconds and retain the lead by 18.2s.
The conditions on the Platak stage worsened to the point that the afternoon’s repeat pass was cancelled for safety reasons. However, Rovanperä excelled in the day’s remaining stage to set the fastest time and extend his advantage to 19.9s over Tänak.
Looking to recover from a difficult Friday, Elfyn Evans recorded the fastest time in the day’s opening stage and moved up to fifth overall – also placing second on two of the morning’s other tests.
Esapekka Lappi restarted after stopping in Friday’s first stage with suspension damage after hitting a large rock, and demonstrated great performance on his asphalt debut in the GR YARIS Rally1. Making the most of his position at the front of the road order, he won the morning’s second stage and then the first two tests in the afternoon, and was only denied a clean sweep of fastest times in the afternoon by Rovanperä’s final stage effort.
Takamoto Katsuta ended two of the day’s stages with a deflated tyre but remains on course to score points for TGR WRT Next Generation in sixth overall.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“It’s been another tough day for the drivers with the conditions, especially this Platak stage because there was a lot of rain and fog and then Kalle had his issue. That really closed the gap, but he was able to keep his nerve. For the championship he couldn’t take the risk of going off the road so when the conditions were difficult he was clever and then on the final stage when it was cleaner he knew he could push harder and did really well to extend his lead to almost 20 seconds. With the conditions looking generally dry for tomorrow, I think this will suit him and I’m confident all will work out OK. With Esapekka, we didn’t expect him to be at the level he has been today. There will always be ‘what ifs’ but I’m honestly feeling very positive to see this speed from him. For Elfyn, it’s not been easy but he just needs to finish this rally now and to get the points under his belt.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“This morning was pretty good. Things were working quite well and the rhythm was good, though I was definitely on the cautious side in the fog in SS11. The afternoon was more difficult in places and probably not quite as strong. I wasn’t quite at the same level of confidence in the muddy sections and the mixed conditions. But it was solid enough with no mistakes. It’s always difficult when you’re not really fighting for position anymore and there’s no need to take risks. Now we just need to bring these points home and target a few more in the Power Stage, and I’m looking forward to that.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It was a difficult morning and not what we hoped for. I don’t know how we lost the tyre but it happened very early in the stage so we lost quite a lot of time. That was making it a bit more difficult but I think we managed this quite well, with no mistakes and being consistent and gaining some time back at the end of the day. The last stage was in quite a clean condition so I knew where I had the grip and could push. I tried to be as fast as possible and it was good to get a bit more of a gap. Tomorrow will be a long and tricky day but we’ll give it our best.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 4)
“It’s been a pretty good day. The conditions this morning were very tricky. The first two stages were mainly damp, then the third one was probably the trickiest I’ve ever done on asphalt. The fog was so thick I could only see 20 metres in some places, so that was a bit crazy. We made some adjustments for the afternoon and I was more than pleased with the pace. OK, we had an advantage with the road position but considering we didn’t do much yesterday I’m really satisfied. I’ve never been driving this fast on dirty asphalt, but the car feels really good and I hope I can continue in a similar way tomorrow.”
End of day two (Saturday):
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1) 2h14m54.5s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) +19.9s
3 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Ford Puma Rally1) +1m13.4s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) +1m18.3s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1) +2m08.2s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1) +5m47.7s
7 Yohan Rossel/Valentin Sarreaud (Citroën C3 Rally2) +8m24.6s
8 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +8m59.7s
9 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +9m15.5s
10 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +9m49.3s
53 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1) +1h19m07.0s
(Results as of 20:45 on Saturday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The final day takes the crews north from Zagreb for a pair of stages run twice and a total of 54.48 competitive kilometres. The first, Trakošćan – Vrbno, is a new stage while Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec hosts the rally-ending Power Stage, just as it did in 2021.
Follow TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT:
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/TGR_WRC (@TGR_WRC)
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tgr_wrc/ (@TGR_WRC)