The fourth round of the 2023 World Rally Championship takes place amid a sombre mood this week.
As the rallying community mourns the tragic loss of Craig Breen, the crews will gather for this season’s first conventional asphalt event.
With thanks to our sister site eWRC-results, here is all the key information for Croatia Rally’s third edition as part of the WRC:
Total 56 crews
8 Priority 1 crews
20 Priority 2 crews (19 WRC2)
10 Priority 3 crews (8 WRC3 / 8 JWRC)
Only eight Rally1 cars will start this week’s event, the fewest since the category was introduced last year.
Leading the crews away will be eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, who tops the world championship standings after his wins in Monte Carlo and México, despite missing Rally Sweden.
Ogier heads a four-strong Toyota line-up alongside last year’s Croatia winner Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans. With Ogier present, that means Takamoto Katsuta will again pilot the fourth GR Yaris which is not registered for manufacturers’ points.
The Hyundai Motorsport squad, which has taken the decision to honor Craig Breen’s memory by contesting the event, will run its two cars in a special tribute livery. Thierry Neuville, third in Croatia in each of the past two years, starts second on the road, ahead of Rovanperä, while Esapekka Lappi will be the sixth car, one behind Evans.
M-Sport Ford’s regular line-up of Ott Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet complete the Rally1 field. Tänak, fourth on the road, was narrowly beaten by Rovanperä last year. For Loubet, Croatia Rally represents the event he has most experience of so far this year.
The Škoda Fabia RS of current WRC2 leader Oliver Solberg will be the first Rally2 car into the stages, but Solberg is not actually scoring WRC2 points in this week’s event, which again boasts a very strong entry.
Yohan Rossel (PH Sport Citroën C3), who won the event by a minute last year, will therefore be aiming to take over at the top of the standings. Rossel is in fine form having already won a largely dry Monte Carlo Rally earlier this year.
México runner-up Emil Lindholm and Gus Greensmith, the driver who beat him, are the third and fourth Rally2 seeds, ahead of fellow Toksport Škoda runner Nikolay Gryazin.
Next up is M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux (Ford Fiesta), who will hope for a change of fortune after an auxiliary belt failure dropped him from second to seventh in México . Team-mate Grégoire Munster will be a couple of cars further back, behind Sami Pajari and Erik Cais who are both in Fabia RSs
French asphalt specialist Nicolas Ciamin could be one to watch in his Volkswagen Polo GTI, while Georg Linnamäe will be full of confidence following victory on the recent Rallye des Ardennes.
Josh McErlean and Patrick O’Brien will continue to rack up experience on their Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy programs.
Crews will contest 20 stages totaling 187 miles on this week’s event. The itinerary is very similar to last year’s edition, with only small changes on the first two legs.
Following Thursday’s shakedown and ceremonial start in Zagreb, the competitive mileage begins on Friday morning. The stages west of Zagreb, close to Croatia’s border with Slovenia, start with a 12-mile run through Mali Lipovec – Grdanjci. Next is the twisty Stojdraga – Hartje, lengthened to 15.95 miles this year, making it the longest stage of the rally.
Following two shorter blasts through Krašić – Vrškovac and Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki, crews will return to Zagreb for lunchtime service. They will then repeat the morning’s stages that afternoon.
At around 72.5 miles, Saturday’s competitive mileage is slightly shorter than Friday’s 81 miles. It takes in some roads closer to the Adriatic coast and again features a loop of four stages that will be repeated after a lunchtime service in Zagreb.
First will be Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh, which at 14.76 miles was previously the longest of the rally. After a quick run through the 5.5-mile Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa, crews will contest the only new stage, Ravna Gora – Skrad, which measures 6.29 miles. Nearly 10 miles around Platak completes the loop.
Sunday’s final leg of 34 miles takes the crews north and features two similar-length tests each run twice, beginning with Trakošćan – Vrbno. That is followed by Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec which, on the second run, serves as the powerstage, and is where Kalle Rovanperä was mighty on his way to beating Ott Tänak last year.