Sébastien Ogier’s stellar last-gasp Croatia Rally victory goes down as the third closest World Rally Championship finish in history.
For its third round, the 2021 WRC bandwagon hopped over to Croatia for the first-ever Croatia Rally and as always, the competition was fierce. Toyota’s Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia emerged victorious as the defending champions pipped their teammates Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin in the final few kilometres to win the three-day rally by just 0.6 of a second – the third closest WRC finish in history!
Thus, Ogier recorded his 51st career victory, sealed a Toyota one-two finish and regained the championship lead. Meanwhile, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville grabbed the final spot on the podium as he finished third in his WRC i20, 7.5 seconds behind Evans. Neuville’s teammate Ott Tänak finished fourth, ahead of WRC debutant Adrian Fourmaux in fifth, who drove for team M-Sport Ford. It was an impressive top-level debut for Fourmaux, who twice set second-fastest times in his Ford Fiesta.
The top-three fought tooth and nail right from the start on Croatia’s slippery roads near Zagreb. After trading places on several occasions, the final day of the rally opened with Ogier leading Evans by 6.9 seconds. While Evans took advantage of Ogier’s unlucky shunt in a road traffic collision en route to the opening speed test, Ogier caught a lucky break when Evans slid wide onto a grass verge close to the finish line.
Toyota rookie Kalle Rovanperä, also the youngest driver ever to lead the WRC at 20 years of age, suffered an unfortunate crash as his WRC Yaris drifted wide on a right bend early into the opening speed test. Though the car was heavily damaged, the Finn and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen were unhurt.
As a result of the DNF, Rovanperä drops down to fifth in the overall standings, with 39 points. Ott Tänak, meanwhile, enjoys a one-point advantage over Rovanperä to hold fourth place. With a healthy lead of 11 points over Tänak, Evans breaks into the top three with 51 points and old rivals Neuville & Ogier occupy the top two spots, with the former in second with 53 points and Ogier leading with 61 points.