Pierre Ragues has completed a challenging WRC Croatia Rally in his Volkswagen Polo R5, picking up invaluable experience on tricky tarmac roads.
The French ace, alongside co-driver Julien Pesenti, had plenty of hurdles to overcome from the opening day of the event – the third round of the 2021 World Rally Championship season. However, the duo showed their determination and never-give-up attitude to finish the rally today, adding more experience at the pinnacle of international rallying.
The three-day event covered 20 stages on slippery and unpredictable tarmac roads, with varying levels of grip that required pinpoint precision. The opening day covered eight stages, split into two loops of four timed tests. The drama for Pierre started already on the second stage – Kostanjevac-Petrus Vrh – as he picked up a puncture and lost almost four minutes of time. It was the same stage on the afternoon loop that added to his troubles, as he was assigned a time after being stopped at the start due to a red flag in stage.
Despite those setbacks, Pierre showed improvements on demanding roads, and aimed to continue that learning curve into Saturday. A second day of eight stages, again in two loops, allowed Pierre to show his speed – and he did just that on the opening run, SS9 Mali Lipovec-Grdanjci, with the 19th fastest time out of all 59 competing crews.
Continuing with that pace into the following stage, Stojdraga-Gornja Vas, Pierre was heading for another strong time, confirming his SS9 pace. Sadly, he got caught out in the final 500m when coming up to a slower car in front and lost his concentration. On one of the many tricky corners, Pierre went off the road and was unable to extract his car from the deep vegetation. It wasn’t quite game over for the Frenchman, as he eventually made it back to the Zagreb Service Park in order to re-start the event on Sunday morning.
Four final stages, culminating in the Zagorska Sela-Kumrovec Power Stage, allowed Pierre and Julien to complete the rally, the first-ever WRC round to take place in Croatia. The pair were able to recreate the encouraging pace shown earlier in the weekend and demonstrate improved times against seasoned competitors from one loop to the next.
Pierre said: “Being part of the WRC Croatia Rally has been a fun challenge and an incredible experience for me. I feel I have learned so much as a driver this weekend, making improvements in my driving from each stage to the next as well as dealing with some difficult moments with our various issues. We have always bounced back to show what sort of performance potential we have. I have loved the profile of the stages, even if they were not easy, and the event overall has been very nice. We were hurt early on by our SS2 puncture, but we were able to put in some good times and kept pushing. The crash on Saturday was disappointing as I would have liked to do the repeat loop to confirm our progress. As we showed on today’s stages, the improvement in times is clear from on the second pass. Overall, this weekend has been a valuable one for Julien and me in the Volkswagen Polo R5, taking part at the very highest level of international rallying. Thanks, as always, to my partners Yacco, First, Sparco and Groupe Polmar, and to Racing Services who did a fantastic job all weekend.”
Pierre will now look forward to continuing his involvement in the 2021 FIA R-GT Coupe du Monde with the Alpine A110 Rally.