The biggest rally stars of today are set to arrive in Croatia in April. They will show their skills on the local roads of Plešivica, Žumberak, counties of Karlovac and Krapina-Zagorje, with the super special stage in Zagreb being particularly attractive.
ZAGREB, March 13, 2021 – After the Arctic Rally in Finland, the World Rally Championship calendar (WRC) includes the Croatia Rally, which takes place April 22 to 25. For the first time, Croatia will host today’s best rally drivers and become the 34th country in history to host the WRC race.
About 80 crews are expected at the Croatia Rally. Special stages will be held on local roads in Plešivica, Žumberak, counties of Karlovac and Krapina-Zagorje, while the super special stage is reserved for Zagreb.
Croatia is third out of 12 stations this year for the best rally drivers, and 22 special stages will take place on more than 300 kilometers of the course. What is still unknown is whether spectators will be allowed to watch the competition, and the organizers are waiting for the relevant institutions’ response.
“We are only 40 days away from the Croatia Rally. We will use them to determine the final details of the competition. The situation in the overall standings after the first two events is very interesting. Leading Finn Rovanpera is only 20 years old, which shows us what kind of talent he is. The Croatia Rally will give us an interesting fight in all categories, and the Junior WRC, which is entering its 20th season, is starting. The fact that our rally is the first pure tarmac event this season will certainly be an important segment, so it remains to be seen how drivers will cope in such conditions,” said Daniel Šaškin, President of the Organizing Committee of Croatia Rally.
The winner of the Monte Carlo Rally, the first event of the season, the Frenchman Sebastien Ogier went off road on the second day of the competition in Finland, which ultimately cost him a placement. He scored only one point on Powerstage and will be arriving in Croatia as the third-placed in the championship. Estonian Ott Tanak won his fourteenth career victory at the Arctic Rally and jumped to the fifth place in the championship after a disappointing start to the season and a running off road at the Monte Carlo Rally.
20-year-old Finn Kalle Rovanpera will arrive at the Croatia Rally as the youngest leading driver in the history of the World Rally Championship. In the drivers’ standings, he has a four-point advantage over the Belgian Thierry Neuville, who finished third in both rallies this season.
In Croatia, Neuville, who is tarmac specialist, hopes for a better placement and better understanding with his co-driver. Just a few days before the start of the new season, Martijn Wydaeghe jumped into his car. His native language is Flemish, and he reads the notes in French, so some pronunciations during the Arctic Rally, accompanied by problems with the communication system, resulted in slower times. Wydaeghe has enrolled in a French course that he will test next weekend in Italy at the Il Ciocco Rally. There he will compete with Neuville in a Hyundai i20 R5 as part of preparations for his arrival in Croatia. They will be accompanied by teammates Irish Craig Breen and Paul Nagle, currently sixth in the championship.
The team competition will continue in Croatia. The defending champion Hyundai had a disappointing start to the season in Monte Carlo, where Toyota celebrated one-two win. Hyundai is currently 11 points behind Toyota, and both teams will be adjusting their cars for the first all-tarmac rally of the season.
They have announced tests in Croatia during March and April, where they will be looking for the ideal suspension adjustment and testing the tires. Ford holds the third position with 53 points less than Hyundai. Their drivers will also test the Croatian asphalt in the days before the Croatia Rally to prepare better for their performance.
Junior WRC for drivers under 30 is entering its jubilee, 20th season, which will begin at the Croatia Rally. This season’s Junior WRC calendar includes five competitions, and all crews are competing in identical Ford Fiesta Rally4 cars prepared by M Sport.
Croatia Rally will also be counted for for WRC-2 Championship, where Andreas Mikkelsen is currently leading with a Škoda Fabia R5 Evo, and WRC-3, where Frenchman Yohan Rossel in a Citroen C3 Rally2 and Finn Teemu Asunmaa in a Škoda Fabia R5 Evo are tied at the top.
The World Rally Championship is a top sporting event, bringing a symbiosis of high technology and driver skills. It is a dramatic race where every tenth of a second is important. This requires crew’s maximum concentration and precision.
Uncompromising competition combines the speed, technology, and reliability of the world’s leading car manufacturers, accompanied by well-coordinated teams led by the world’s best drivers, assisted by cool heads and calm voices of the world’s most capable co-drivers. The WRC is a global challenge characterized by courage, passion, endurance, and the ability to adapt to constant changes in the environment and the unpredictability of driving conditions.