WRC Croatia: Neuville Stays Ahead of Evans with Slim Lead

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WRC Croatia: Relentless Neuville fends off Evans to hold narrow lead

Saturday’s rally stages were a battleground for the leading contenders, with Hyundai’s Neuville and Toyota’s Evans engaged in a relentless duel. The day saw constant lead changes and a narrow margin between the two, never exceeding five seconds. Neuville ended the day with a 4.9-second lead over Evans, thanks to a maximum attack strategy and a strategic tire choice amidst unpredictable weather conditions.

Behind the leading pair, eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier of Toyota kept himself in contention, trailing in third place by 11.6 seconds. Hyundai’s Ott Tanak held the fourth position, over a minute behind the leader, followed by M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux, who faced challenges due to a wrong tire decision.

Tire strategy played a crucial role throughout Saturday’s stages, with teams making varied choices based on the weather forecasts. Toyota’s gamble on soft and wet tires paid off as Evans secured a stage win and briefly reclaimed the lead from Neuville. However, Neuville bounced back in subsequent stages, aided by a shift in weather conditions and his choice of hard-compound tires.

Neuville Stays Ahead of Evans with Slim Lead
Neuville Stays Ahead of Evans with Slim Lead (Credits: Motorsport)

Neuville’s aggressive driving and strategic tire selections allowed him to regain the lead from Evans despite challenges from both the Toyota driver and Ogier. His impressive stage wins, particularly in the latter stages of the day, extended his overall lead to 4.9 seconds over Evans.

While Neuville thrived, some drivers, like M-Sport’s Fourmaux, struggled with tire decisions, resulting in time losses. Despite the challenging conditions, Hyundai’s overall performance improved, with Neuville’s teammate, Andreas Mikkelsen, facing minor setbacks but maintaining competitiveness.

As the day progressed, Neuville continued to push the limits, securing stage wins and extending his lead over Evans. With one day of rallying remaining, the battle for victory remained intense, with Neuville poised to defend his lead and Evans and Ogier still in contention for the win.

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