Rally Croatia: PreviewTOYOTA GAZOO Racing back in action on tough Croatian roads
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team will aim to build on its positive start to the new hybrid era of the FIA World Rally Championship when the 2022 season resumes for round three of Rally Croatia from April 22-24.
The team currently leads the constructors’ championship with Kalle Rovanperä leading the drivers’ standings after claiming the first GR YARIS Rally1 victory at the previous round in Sweden in February. Elfyn Evans has been among the frontrunners so far and will be keen to return to the podium in Croatia, where he featured in a thrilling final stage showdown with team-mate Sébastien Ogier when the country made its WRC debut there. a year ago.
As the event is not part of Ogier’s selected rally program for 2022, Esapekka Lappi once again completes the TGR WRT field after finishing third on her return to Sweden. Fourth in Sweden, Takamoto Katsuta, who continues his full campaign with the TGR WRT Next Generation on a rally on which he won two stages in 2021.
After the two winter rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden, Croatia offers the first test on pure asphalt for the new Rally1 cars. The event is based in Zagreb, the capital, with stages taking place close to neighboring Slovenia. The roads are characterized by a wide variety of different asphalt types, which means grip levels are constantly changing. Many sections are fast and flowing and include jumps and ridges, while others are more technical and twisty.
After the shakedown on Thursday morning and a ceremonial start in Zagreb in the evening, the rally begins on Friday with the longest stage of the event, consisting of two four-stage loops all familiar from the 2021 event. Much of Saturday takes place in similar territory just southwest of Zagreb, but there is also a longer trip to the Adriatic coast near Rijeka for the new stage of Platak. Like Friday, the four stages are repeated after the midday service. The final day takes place north of the capital and includes another new stage, Trakošćan – Vrbno, which is raced twice with Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec hosting the end-of-rally Power Stage.
Jari-Matti Latvala (team leader)
“The first two events of the season with the new regulations were very intense and the break in the calendar gave us the opportunity to assess what we have learned and to continue to develop the GR YARIS Rally1. We had some days of on-land testing in Sardinia and then the pre-event test in Croatia last week.So far the focus has been on the reliability and function of the hybrid system, but now we can really work on optimizing the setup of the car and trying to make it even stronger. The big challenge in Croatia is that the asphalt surface often changes during the stages and the level of grip differs a lot. I think it surprised a lot of riders last year and those returning for the second time will know what to expect Kalle didn’t put in as many miles last year but knows the importance of continuing to score dots, Elfyn was so close to winning in 2021 and will want to get a good result, and then for Esapekka the rally is completely new. approach the rally differently, but hopefully it can be good for the team’s result at the end of the weekend.”