Whoever enters practice first, in asphalt rallies, often has a significant advantage: that of finding the asphalt less dirty than all the competitors following him. Kalle Rovanpera was very good at taking advantage of this, winning stage 9 of Rally Croatia, the first of the second stage.
In the Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh 1 of 23.76 kilometers – the longest race of the day – the reigning world champion stopped the clock in 12’43″6, ahead of Ott Tanak by 1″2.
The Rovanpera race was suddenly rekindled following the penalty handed out by the race stewards to Sébastien Ogier last night. The 8-time world champion took a 1-minute penalty for resuming the special stage (PS2) without waiting for Vincent Landais, the navigator, to fully fasten his seat belts (which he then did after the first corners after the restart ).
The French Toyota crew had stopped between the second and third intermediates to change a wheel, which had been damaged moments earlier in a compression found in the cut of a left-hand bend. Not only that, because Ogier also arrived 1 minute late at the PS9 Time Control, receiving another 10 second penalty.
So now Rovanpera sees Ogier in front of him with a very small gap: just 5″2. Ogier, on the other hand, will be called to a second comeback after yesterday’s, which had brought him up from eighth to fifth final position.
At the top of the standings, the duel between Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans restarted without stopping, but this time it was the Belgian of Hyundai Motorsport who got the upper hand. Thierry took the fourth time of the special, just 2″4 from Rovanpera.
Evans, on the other hand, stopped in fifth place, but 7″2 behind his teammate and 4″8 from his rival for the win. After this test, the advantage of the 35-year-old from Sankt Vith almost doubled, passing to 10″5. The day, however, has just begun and both will have to deal with the amount of dirt brought onto the road by the passages of the cars preceding them in practice .
To signal the umpteenth exchange of position between Takamoto Katsuta and Pierre-Louis Loubet. The Japanese struggled a lot during the test due to the dirt brought onto the road by the cars in the forest section of the test. Loubet, in turn, didn’t shine, but recovered several seconds on his rival so as to take back the fifth position in the general standings.
In WRC2, Oliver Solberg had a problem with a wheel. The Norwegian-Swede thus lost over 1 minute and the possibility of fighting for second place in the class because he is almost 30″ behind Nicolas Ciamin.
WRC – Rally Croatia 2023 – Standings after SS9
Pos. Pilota/navigatore Vettura Tempo/distacco Penalità 1 Neuville/Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 1h28’48”4 2 Evans/Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +10″5 3 Tanak/Jarveoja Ford Puma Rally1 +28″8 4 Lappi/Ferm Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +43″8 5 Loubet/Gilsoul Ford Puma Rally1 +1’59″9 6 Katsuta/Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2’07″1 7 Ogier/Landais Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2’32″7 +1′ 10″ 8 Rovanpera/Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2’37″9 9 Rossel/Arnaud Citroen C3 Rally2 +4’06″1 10 Gryazin/Aleksandrov Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 +4’37″3