Croatia Rally 2024 form guide

Predictability and Croatia are two words that rarely go hand in hand, so who has the edge for round four of the WRC?

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe

After the long gap between Sweden and the Safari, the WRC season is getting busy now, with events taking place every three weeks for the next couple of months.

Croatia Rally this week represents the first conventional asphalt round of the season (and the last until October), so those who like their rallying on sealed surfaces should make the most of it.

But don’t expect clean, smooth roads with consistent grip. Croatia’s reputation for variable grip levels precedes it, and regular cutting can make the roads very slippery indeed.

The drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships have been close battles between Hyundai and Toyota so far this year, at least in terms of points, but current leader Thierry Neuville undoubtedly enjoyed the upper hand on Monte Carlo’s unseasonable roads in January. Will that be the case this week, or can Toyota repeat its 2023 Croatia success?

Here’s our form guide ahead of this year’s Croatia Rally.

Thierry Neuville

#11 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 5th-4th-1st
Best Croatia result: 3rd (2021 & 2022)

Safari Rally Kenya was another successful damage limitation exercise for Thierry Neuville after a difficult rally aboard his Hyundai i20 N Rally1. In fact, he even managed to extend his points advantage over title rival Elfyn Evans, despite being classified six minutes behind him in the results.

With the WRC returning to asphalt, Neuville will aim to repeat the utterly imperious form he showed on Monte Carlo’s largely dry stages, when he scored a 30-point maximum.

His Croatia form is mixed. He had two podium finishes on the first two editions of the event but threw away a commanding lead when he crashed out of last year’s emotionally-charged event.

Being first on the road is usually an advantage on asphalt, particularly somewhere like Croatia where the stages can quickly get muddy, and he’ll be looking to take advantage of that.

Elfyn Evans

#33 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 4th-2nd-3rd
Best Croatia result: 1st (2023)

Elfyn Evans is yet to win in 2024 but Croatia Rally could be his best chance yet of breaking his seasonal duck.

It’s been a largely consistent if unspectacular start to the season for Toyota’s title hopeful, with fourth on the Safari last time out his only time off the podium. While that yielded solid points, there were some concerns about his lack of comfort in the car.

Evans made the best of it, applying the adage that championships are won by maximizing your bad days, but he will have been disappointed not to be closer to team-mates Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta.

On a completely different surface, Croatia is a chance to start afresh on an event where he has a very good record, including a fine victory last year.

Adrien Fourmaux

#16 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 3rd-3rd-5th
Best Croatia result: 5th (2021)

Two consecutive podiums and a worst finish of fifth are more than Adrien Fourmaux could have hoped for on his return to world rallying’s top flight with M-Sport.

The British Rally Champion has shown maturity and strong pace at the right times and will be riding high on confidence as the WRC returns to Croatia’s sealed-surface roads.

What he must not do is get carried away with his performances to date and push himself too far. Croatia can easily bite as he found on the first morning of the event two years ago. But the year before, Fourmaux impressed on his first WRC outing in a top-class car.

If he keeps a cool head and follows the same approach that he has so far this season, another podium finish is achievable, especially with a decent road position.

Ott Tänak

#8 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 8th-41st-4th
Best Croatia result: 2nd (2022 & 2023)

Ott Tänak’s return to Hyundai has so far been disappointing to say the least. The 2019 world champion is yet to stand on the podium since climbing back into the i20 N Rally1. He struggled with the car on the Monte, then retired on the first leg of both Sweden and Safari Rally Kenya.

The Estonian is in need of a strong result in Croatia if only to remind his team that more than one Hyundai driver is capable of winning this year’s championship. If not, he could soon be in danger of having to play a supporting role to Thierry Neuville.

The good news is Croatia is an event where Tänak has a strong record. He’s finished second for the past two years, including a sublime performance in the M-Sport Ford Puma in 2023.

The bad news is Tänak is likely to face worse road conditions than Neuville and Toyota’s Elfyn Evans, and there could remain a question over the engine-mapping issues that blighted his effort on Monte Carlo’s asphalt stages.

Takamoto Katsuta

#18 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 2nd-45th-7th
Best Croatia result: 6th (2021, 2022 & 2023)

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Takamoto Katsuta over the past two events. From the high of leading Rally Sweden, to the massive low of crashing out of the event, and then bouncing back with second place on the Safari.

His Safari performance demonstrated a mental resilience that the Toyota driver has perhaps lacked in the past and should have restored his confidence heading to the tricky Croatian stages.

Croatia Rally hasn’t been Katsuta’s best event over the years but he has always managed to avoid major dramas and bring the car home safely, for three consecutive sixth-place finishes.

His stunning pace on Rally Japan at the end of last year proved what Katsuta can do on asphalt but whether he’ll be able to reproduce that in Croatia, from a less-than-ideal road position, is another matter. What Toyota need is for him to both make the finish of each day and help take some points away from the Hyundai contingent.

Sébastien Ogier

#17 Sébastien Ogier (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 2nd-2nd-4th
Best Croatia result: 1st (2021)

One of the key reasons for Sébastien Ogier’s part-time schedule was to give him more opportunity of winning rallies, without championships to worry about and without being saddled with unfavorable road positions.

Unfortunately for him, road position will surely hamper the Toyota driver in Croatia, as he makes his second start of the season in place of Kalle Rovanperä. It is now 10 months since the eight-time world champion recorded his last WRC victory and it might be tough to end that run this weekend from sixth on the road, despite his undoubted ability.

If anyone is capable of overcoming the odds, it’s Ogier, who snatched victory on the final stage here in 2021 but had his rally ruined by a second-stage puncture last year.

But if he’s not in the running for victory, the focus will be on doing a job for Toyota. One key part of that will be a flat-out run through ‘Super Sunday’ to prevent another Hyundai clean sweep of the points on offer. You can be sure that Ogier will perform that role admirably and, even if a win isn’t on, a podium is a very strong bet.

Andreas Mikkelsen

#9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksson (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 6th-7th-23rd
Best Croatia result: 39th (2021) (5th in WRC2)

Andreas Mikkelsen returns to the third Hyundai seat this week, taking over from Esapekka Lappi who was the incumbent for the past two rounds. But there are probably too many hurdles in his way to replicate Lappi’s Sweden heroics.

It’s fair to say that some eyebrows were raised when Hyundai signed Mikkelsen to be its ‘asphalt specialist’, particularly given his travails in the team’s previous-generation World Rally Car. But Mikkelsen made a solid start to that role with sixth on the Monte, particularly given his lack of Rally1 seat time.

Mikkelsen has only contested Croatia Rally once before, the inaugural edition in 2021 when his WRC2 Škoda shed a wheel early on and cost him any chance of a decent result.

He did complete the stages then, but given his relative lack of experience of both the roads and the car, and a starting position that is likely to suffer from dirty roads, he’s unlikely to be challenging for a podium come Sunday. Bringing the car home and scoring some decent points for the team if needed will be the priority.

Grégoire Munster

#13 Grégoire Munster/Louis Louka (Ford Puma Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 15th-23rd-20th
Best Croatia result: 26th (2023) (11th in WRC2)

A tough start to his full-time top-flight career got no better for Grégoire Munster in Kenya when he was forced to super rally again. So far this year, three events have yielded no top-10 finishes and just three ‘Super Sunday’ points.

But a more conventional rally on the surface he’s most familiar with could be exactly what Munster needs to boost his confidence.

He has contested the event twice before in Rally2 machinery, albeit with little joy in terms of results, having to super rally on both occasions.

Once again, the primary target will be to complete all the stages and bring the car home safely, but he’ll also be confident of showing improved pace relative to the rest of the field.