John Floyd
Motorsport columnist
3 minute read
22 Apr 2021
1:16 pm

Croatia getting ready to welcome WRC for the first time

John Floyd

Event promises to be a straight fight between Toyota, Hyundai and Ford.

Toyota's 20-year old Kalle Rovanperä is the youngest driver in history to lead the World Rally Championship. Picture: Toyota Gazoo Racing

World Rally Championship (WRC) teams will move into a new country for the third round of the 2021 FIA championship this weekend.

The all tarmac event will run through open country and small villages with the surface variation significant and likely to play a role. Teams have been in the area compiling their pace notes over sections both fast and narrow.

With only two passes of each stage permitted ahead of the event, crews will require great accuracy as no one has actually covered the route within the fiercely competitive world of special stage rallying. Croatia will be a true leveller, as no one can claim local road knowledge.

The event gets underway tomorrow as crews set up the cars on the 4.6 km shakedown stage, close to the central service park at Zagreb Fair, a complex of exhibition pavilions within the capital city of Croatia. The rally rally itself will start early on Friday morning when the 68 competitors set off to challenge the 20 special stages which make up 300 km of the 1 279 km total.

WRC

Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT’s Thierry Neuville currently lies second in the Drivers’ title chase. Picture: Hyundai.

Current leaders in both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ championships, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT will run their normal three-car Yaris WRC line up headed by the driver at the top of the table, 20-year old Kalle Rovanperä (39 points).

The Finn is the youngest ever to lead the WRC Driver’s Championship and will be hoping for a clean run with co-driver Jonne Halttunen to increase his slender four point lead over second placed Thierry Neuville of Hyundai. Rovanpera’s team mates Sébastien Ogier with Julien Ingrassia and Elfyn Evans and co-driver Scott Martin are jointly third, both on 31 points.

Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT will also field three teams with the i20 Coupe WRC. Ott Tänak (27 points) and Martin Järveoja will be out to repeat their victory on last month’s Arctic Rally, solidly backed by Neuville (35 points) with Martijn Wydaeghe reading the notes.

This new pairing are beginning to bond and we can expect more from them in 2021. Wydaeghe is a natural Flemish speaker and is currently taking French lessons to improve communication with French speaking driver Neuville.

WRC

Ford’s Gus Greensmith will be partnered by a new co-driver, the experienced Chris Patterson. Picture: Ford.

Last but not least in the Hyundai WRT is the Irish pairing of Craig Breen (16 points) and Paul Nagle, who are out to assist their team mates in reducing the 11 point deficit in the Manufacturers’ title chase.

It will be just a two car outing for M-Sport Ford WRT with Teemu Suninen running in the RC2 Rally 2 class, his place taken by 25 year old Adrien Fourmaux and co-driver Renaud Jamoul. The Frenchman moves up from the Rally 2 class to his first full WRC drive for the team and will be one to watch.

Ford’s Gus Greensmith will be partnered by a new co–driver, the experienced Chris Patterson. Patterson has the ability to allow Greensmith to extend the obvious potential he has and ensuring he stays on the road.

On the Manufacturers’ front it is Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT on 88 points, Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT on 77 and M-Sport Ford on 24 points. Rally Croatia looks to be a genuine challenge for the teams, with the result anyone’s guess.