Ogier was the fastest in the last three special stages in the afternoon, reducing his gap to 7.7 seconds behind the Belgian asphalt specialist after the first day.
“I’m pretty happy with the first day. It was difficult for everyone, and after Kalle took off, our main goal was to try to use a good starting position, which we managed,” said the leader Neuville, commenting on the afternoon three-stage victory of his great rival Sebastien Ogier.
“I have gone through enough fights with myself, and I know what he is capable of, just as he knows what I can do. Tomorrow’s stages will be challenging again, but I like them, and I hope to keep pushing as much as I can to keep you in the lead.”
Luka Stanzl / PIXSELL
Britain’s Elfyn Evans (Toyota Yaris) is in the game for an overall win with 8.0 seconds behind Neuville. Estonian Ott Tanak (Hyundai i20 Coupe) is fourth, but he is 31.9 seconds behind the leader.
The first speed test of the Croatia Rally was also the last for the leader in the overall World Championship 20-year-old Finn Kalle Rovanperä, who landed off the road with his Toyota Yaris and ended up in an abyss overgrown with trees. Luckily, his co-driver Jonne Halttunen also got out of the car unscathed, but the car was so destroyed that Rovanperä will not be able to start on Saturday.
At the same turn in first gear, Ogier almost turned out but managed to stay on the road.
Unfortunately, among the seven crews that had to give up the competition on the first day were two Croatian teams. Vilim Prodan and co-driver Zoran Raštegorac (Ford Fiesta) were left without the possibility of continuing the rally after the third speed test due to a malfunction, and Martin Ravenščak with co-driver Tomislav Tomašković (Ford Fiesta) finished their appearance after the fifth speed, also due to technical problems.
Luka Stanzl / PIXSELL
The Saturday morning program starts at 8.29 am, with the speed test Mali Lipovac – Grdanjci, length 20.30 km. The first speed test in the afternoon part of the program will be run on the same section, starting at 14.29. On Saturday, the drivers are facing eight special stages.
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