There are eight stages – four different tests each repeated once – to tackle on the very first day of World Rally Championship competition in Croatia.
WRC3 regular Tom Williams won’t be taking the start himself this week but he has been through the stages on recce as he is working as weather crew for M-Sport. He gives DirtFish the lowdown on the opening day of Rally Croatia.
“There’s some really nice roads on this rally and there’ll be bits where you can go 110% absolutely close to the limit,” he says.
“But then suddenly there’s these horrible corners or sudden crests or full-mad and full-grass, a bit like Germany actually in some places.
“Shakedown was quite perfect, it was quite a nice stage, but Friday could be a rude awakening as it gets messier.
“Overall you need to be very aware. The conditions are always changing from the type of asphalt surface to the conditions, whether you can cut the corners or not cut them.”
With that in mind, here are Williams’s notes on the first eight stages this weekend:
SS1/5 Rude – Plešivica (4.31 miles)
It starts off with a big, wide concrete-style road which will be a good way to settle the car and the driver’s confidence. Then it heads into a town where the surface transitions to brand-new Tarmac that’s properly black and shiny. This is where you’ve seen all the photos of all that white gravel sprayed across the road, so you go onto absolutely perfect Tarmac but with sprayed gravel all over it which is absolutely lethal.
The stage then goes onto some broken Tarmac and has a really good flow throughout but as the first stage on a rally goes where everyone’s pumped up and feeling the pressure, it won’t be an easy start with the road surface changing two times which can hurt your rhythm.
SS2/6 Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh (14.76 miles)
This stage starts on a single-width road, again on a concrete surface but it’s very fast before heading into a forest. There was already a huge amount of mud on the road from the recce and that’s going to get worse with the passing of each rally car. Under the trees it’s very damp and leafy but there also lots of blind crests to contend with. Already from the first two stages there’s quite a difference in style. This one is nearly 15 miles long too so it’s a big one; all the guys will be giving it a push in here I imagine. If you can find a good rhythm it’ll definitely reward you but it’s definitely one of the messier stages.
SS3/7 Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok (6.27 miles)
Much like the previous stage, this one starts off very narrow and twisty with grass either side of the road before heading into a forest section. It too was quite dirty on the recce so could be ever dirtier after just a few cars on the rally. Blind crests are a common theme in Croatia and feature in here too. Accurate pacenotes will be imperative as when you’re approaching something blind, you need to know what’s on the other side. The stage ends with some village sections which are really quite tight so you need to have your wits about you.
SS4/8 Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki (5.6 miles)
The final stage of Friday’s loop starts off very narrow but very fast and flowing with really high, grassy banks at the side of the road. That means there’ll be no cutting, but the road remains fast so I think you’ll see the guys pushing pretty hard on this one. For the last third of the stage it gets narrower and enters a forest, just like the second stage of the loop, with lots of muddy patches. The stage widens again thereafter and gets extremely fast with a few hidden crests but generally this stage has good consistency despite the width of the road widening and tightening throughout.