3rd spot in Croatia Rally, but good points for Hyundai

A dramatic closing day at the Croatia Rally, round four of the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season, has seen Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe finish on the podium in third position.

Sunday brought a number of twists in the story of the rally as crews tackled four tricky final stages – Trakošćan – Vrbno (SS17/19, 13.15km) and Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec (SS18/20, 14.24km), the latter of which proved to be fateful during the first attempt.

The rally-long fight for the lead of continued into the third day of the event. Sadly, Neuville and Wydaeghe’s victory charge ended after a mistake on SS18 caused their Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid to slide off the road, losing them over 20 seconds, and they dropped down to third place.

It was a bittersweet conclusion to Croatia for the Belgians, who had demonstrated rally-winning potential for the majority of the event, topping the standings for 15 of the 20 tarmac stages. However, despite nursing damage to their car, Neuville and Wydaeghe managed to finish with 19 points and remain in the lead of the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships.

The improved pace of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid on tarmac was also evident in the performance of Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja on Sunday, with the Estonians locked in a close battle in the Super Sunday standings. In the eventful SS18, which featured “a bit more than a moment” for the #8 crew, Tänak and Järveoja scored their first stage win of the rally. They finished second in the Sunday points and fourth overall to be the second highest-scoring crew in Croatia.

Meanwhile Andreas Mikkelsen and Torstein Eriksen continued their learning curve on the tricky and dirty roads, where they often struggled to find the confidence they needed to push to the limit. It was a promising finish to the Croatia Rally for the pair, who finished fourth in the Super Sunday standings and sixth overall.

The battle in the manufacturers’ championship continues to be tight, with Hyundai Motorsport now trailing by seven points. WRC now heads to Portugal for the first of seven gravel events, where the team hopes to show the strong pace of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid on this surface once again. 

The Croatia Rally was a fitting tribute to Craig Breen, encapsulating what he loved most about rallying. The entire Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team has channelled one of his most iconic sayings this weekend: “Don’t forget to enjoy it, don’t forget to have fun. Life is too short.”

Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe

Neuville said: “While we didn’t finish how we would have wanted, we have been well rewarded for our great drive on Friday and Saturday. Those are important points and despite not scoring many today, we were still the third-best performers – equal with Elfyn – and we only lost one point to Ott. SS18 was really tricky, and I tried my best to avoid an impact immediately hitting the brakes but there was nothing I could do. I am happy to still be in the lead and to retain the advantage, however Portugal is going to be tough for us from our road position.”

Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja

Tänak said: “It’s incredible to finish as the second highest-scoring crew. Our weekend was tough once again; we started from a very bad place, and I gave away some time in the beginning. We recovered a bit on Friday afternoon, and then on Saturday we tried to experiment a bit ahead of today to try and help us maximise our road position, which was also tricky. We were always just a bit too far behind to get enough dirty road, so it was a constant challenge, but collected some good points. I’m hoping to have a better feeling on gravel from Portugal and be more competitive.”

Crew Notes: Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen

Mikkelsen said: “I was expecting to be a bit closer to the front during this event, even though I knew I was going to struggle here. I haven’t done the rally in the last few years, so it was a struggle, especially as there is so much pace notes information to take on. When I don’t know the stage by heart, it is hard to have the commitment you need to fight at the front, and the speed here is high.”

Hyundai Motorsport president and team principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “We leave Croatia frustrated for what could have been an amazing win for Thierry and Martijn. Instead, we finish with a roughly similar championship outlook as to when we arrived, with Thierry having a small margin of six points. It has been an entertaining rally, but one where risks were taken by both Thierry and Elfyn that didn’t reward them fairly.

“It is a small lesson with this new points-scoring system, of which we are still exploring the boundaries and side effects. Ott was one of the biggest winners in that regard today; he has been trying to get his head around the behaviour of our car on tarmac, and we’re all looking forward seeing him in action on gravel in Portugal. Andreas had a challenging weekend, and we must find a way to get him in better shape for his next appearance with us.”

Next rally

Rally de Portugal marks a return to gravel from 9 to 12 May for the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Final results Croatia Rally:

1S. OgierV. LandaisToyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid2:40:23.6
2E. EvansS. MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid+9.7
3T. NeuvilleM. WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid+45.8
4O. TänakM. JärveojaHyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid+58.6
5T. KatsutaA. JohnstonToyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid+1:55.5
6A. MikkelsenT. EriksenHyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid+4:01.0
7G. MunsterL. LoukaFord Puma Rally1 Hybrid+5:11.0
8N. GryazinK. AleksandrovCitroën C3+9:21.3
9Y. RosselA. DunandCitroën C3+9:59.5
10S. PajariE. MälkönenToyota GR Yaris+10:22.7

Manufacturers’ championship standings:

1Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team176
2Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team169
3M-Sport Ford World Rally Team96

Drivers’ championship standings:

1T. Neuville86
2E. Evans80
3A. Fourmaux59
4O. Tänak53
5S. Ogier45
6T. Katsuta45
7K. Rovanpera31
8E. Lappi23
9A. Mikkelsen14
10O. Solberg12

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