Toyota Gazoo Racing back on asphalt for Croatia Rally challenge

15 April 2024

Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team aim to conquer the challenging asphalt roads of the Croatia Rally once more on the fourth round of the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship this week (18-21 April).

Since Croatia first joined the WRC schedule three years ago, TGR-WRT have tasted victory with three different drivers in as many editions. Two of those drivers return as part of its line-up for this year’s event, with the 2021 winner Sébastien Ogier set to make his second start of the season alongside 2023 victor Elfyn Evans, and Takamoto Katsuta, who has a trio of top-six finishes in Croatia to his credit.

After achieving a record-extending victory on Safari Rally Kenya, TGR-WRT lead the manufacturers’ championship by four points while Evans leads its challenge in the drivers’ championship, just six points off the lead.

The rally is again based in the Croatian capital Zagreb – although the service park this year moves to a new location at the Westgate shopping mall north-west of the city centre. The stages take place across the north of the country, close to neighbouring Slovenia, on roads that feature a wide variety of asphalt types. This means that grip levels are constantly changing, which can be further complicated by rain and mud. Some sections are technical and twisting, while others are fast and flowing with jumps and crests.

After a shakedown and ceremonial start on Thursday, the rally begins on Friday with its longest day. Four stages take the rally south-west from Zagreb towards the coastal city of Rijeka, which hosts a lunchtime regroup. After a tyre-fitting zone, the same four stages will be tackled in reverse order in the afternoon on the way back to Zagreb.

Saturday runs to a more typical format, with a loop of four stages to the west and south of Zagreb to be run twice either side of mid-day service. As usual, Sunday’s finale takes place to the north of Zagreb where a pair of stages will be run twice, with Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec once more hosting the rally-ending Power Stage.

Four GR Yaris Rally2 cars are entered in Croatia, with Sami Pajari (Printsport) and Georg Linnamäe (RedGrey Team) joined by the TGR WRC Challenge Program duo of Yuki Yamamoto and Hikaru Kogure, who are registered to compete for WRC2 points.

Team quotes

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal): “Our win in Kenya came after a lot of hard work from the whole team, so that result has been good for team spirit and gives us extra motivation for the events to come in what is an important period for the championship. We have done well in Croatia in the past and we generally have a good feeling for our return this year. If it’s dry then the roads can be very enjoyable to drive, but we know that the weather can also make it very difficult. We know that the GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid has been strong on asphalt but we are aware that the competition is improving all the time. In this event a driver can make a difference if they are confident with the changing grip levels, and that comes from having confidence in the car. Our aim is to provide our drivers with this confidence and hopefully come away with the most points at the end of the weekend.”

Elfyn Evans (driver car No33): “The start of our season has been solid and we’ve come away from each round with some decent points. We’ve had three unique events with specific challenges and now we come to some more typical European asphalt and gravel rallies, we need to focus on trying to maximise these. Last year was good for us on asphalt, including Croatia, so it’s a rally we look forward to. We know this is a tricky rally with the changeable grip levels and it’s very easy to make a mistake. We need to try to have a clean rally but, at the same time, we know that we’ll need to drive quickly to be fighting at the front.”

Sébastien Ogier (driver car No17): “I’ve enjoyed my time off since Monte-Carlo and now I’m happy to get back into competition. My test last week was a good chance to get my feeling back in the car, with quite a demanding road: pretty fast with jumps and narrow sections. These are features of the rally as well, but we also know that the weather can be uncertain at this time of year. We don’t have the ideal starting position for an asphalt rally, so we’ll have to assess the conditions and see what we can do. My main motivation is always to reach the podium and fight for victory, but I’m also here to help the team, and with the new points system we can see that Sundays are more important than ever.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18): “I’m feeling more and more confident on asphalt after my performance on Rally Japan last year, and some stages of Monte-Carlo this year. However, Croatia is one of the trickiest rallies because of the amount of cutting and the number of surface changes. Being able to fully commit when the road is dirty is an area where I can still improve my asphalt driving and I want to take this event as an opportunity to continue making progress. It will not be an easy rally, especially with our starting position on Friday and even more so if it rains. So it could be important to be patient to begin with and then try to find the rhythm and a good balance to be able to push hard.”


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Toyota Gazoo Racing back on asphalt for Croatia Rally challenge


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