Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team (TGR-WRT) head to the Croatia Rally this week, the fourth round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC, 21-23 April).
They arrive in Croatia with heavy hearts following the passing last week of Craig Breen. Toyota Gazoo Racing send their deepest condolences to his family and to his team, Hyundai Motorsport.
Considered the first pure asphalt round of the season, the Croatia Rally joined the WRC schedule two years ago. The varied roads around the country’s capital, Zagreb, are already considered some of the most challenging on the calendar.
Sébastien Ogier will make his third start of the year following historic victories on Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rally México that have made him the current championship leader, while Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans are only four and 12 points off the lead respectively, following consistent starts to their campaigns. Takamoto Katsuta will drive a GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid with the support of the TGR WRC Challenge Program.
Ahead of the event, TGR-WRT is pleased to welcome back Microsoft as a valued partner. The Microsoft logo will once more be visible on the team’s cars from the Croatia Rally onwards.
The service park is located within Zagreb and the stages take place in the north of Croatia, close to neighbouring Slovenia. The roads feature a wide variety of asphalt types, which means that the grip available is constantly changing, while mud and rain can bring further challenges. Some sections are technical and twisting, but others are fast and flowing with jumps and crests.
Much of the route for this year is familiar from 2022’s event. After shakedown on Thursday morning and a ceremonial start in Zagreb that evening, Friday’s opening day action takes place just to the west of the city. All four stages are repeated after midday service, creating the rally’s longest day in terms competitive distance, at more than 80 miles. The second stage of the loop (Stojdraga – Hartje) has been extended to around 16 miles, making it the longest of the weekend.
Saturday takes the teams further south-west, towards the city of Rijeka on the Adriatic coast, with another repeated loop of four stages that takes in the only new test for this year: Ravna Gora – Skrad. Action on the final day, Sunday, takes place north of Zagreb, with a pair of stages run twice; Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec will host the rally-ending Power Stage.
Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chairman) and Koji Sato (President, Toyota Motor Corporation): “On behalf of Toyota Gazoo Racing, we would like to express our heartfelt sadness following the sudden passing of Craig Breen. We would also like to extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and everyone at Hyundai Motorsport.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal): “Along with the rest of the WRC family, we are truly saddened following the sudden loss of Craig Breen. As well as being a top driver, Craig was a real enthusiast for rallying, and we shared the same passion for old rally cars and for the history of our sport. As we prepare for the next rally, our thoughts are with Craig’s family, friends and his colleagues within the service park.
“We know that the Croatia Rally can be a very challenging event: last year the conditions were extremely difficult, and even in the dry there is still a lot of dirt brought onto the road. It has been a good rally for us on our previous two visits and, together with our drivers, we will try our best to make it another successful weekend. As championship leader, Seb will be first on the road and this is a good starting point. Kalle had one of his best performances last year in Croatia, showing how good he is when the conditions get difficult, and we know Elfyn can also be strong whenever grip levels are changing a lot.”