World Rally Championship

Preview Croatia Rally

Hyundai Motorsport is looking to bounce back emphatically at Croatia Rally, the fourth round of the season

Hyundai Motorsport is looking to bounce back emphatically at Croatia Rally, the fourth round of the season

Following a rollercoaster weekend in Kenya, Hyundai Motorsport is targeting a return to the podium at Croatia Rally (April 18-21), the fourth round of the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

With a constantly changing surface and a variety of features not typically found at a tarmac rally, Croatia provides a unique challenge for crews. Crests, jumps and blind corners must be navigated precisely, while a road surface that can go from slippery to broken seemingly without warning adds to the peril. In previous years, adverse weather conditions have also played a role, transforming the roads from unpredictable to treacherous. Torrential rain is often seen at the event and has the potential to turn the running order on its head at any moment.

Three crews will be representing Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team at Croatia Rally: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe and Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja will compete alongside the returning Norwegian duo of Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen. The team’s Belgian and Estonian pairings have enjoyed previous success at the event, having each scored two podiums on the Croatian roads.

The primary goal, however, for Neuville and Wydaeghe will be to further extend their leads in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships. Despite finishing fifth overall at the previous round in Kenya, they were the second-highest points scorers at the event, taking advantage of the new Super Sunday points system and Power Stage bonuses to increase the margin at the top of the standings to six points.

Croatia Rally marks one year since the tragic passing of Hyundai Motorsport driver, friend and colleague Craig Breen, who lost his life during testing for the 2023 edition of the event. This year, the team will honour him by adorning the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid with an Irish flag on both the roof and the bumper, as well as donating items to an auction in his name, with all proceeds going to the Craig Breen Foundation. The auction will be live from 09:00 (CEST) on 16 April to 21:00 (CEST) on 23 April and is accessible via the following link.

Hyundai Motorsport President and Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “Croatia Rally is the first full tarmac event of the year, but after a milder Rallye Monte-Carlo, we have already had a taste of how the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid can perform on this surface. We have seen success here in the past; we know both Thierry and Ott can put a car on the podium in Croatia, and with Andreas’ capabilities on tarmac, we believe he can also score good points next week. It is of course emotional coming to this event following the loss of Craig one year ago, but we want to honour him on our return and have tried to do so through both our charitable efforts and the addition of the Irish flag on our car. For both championships, and for Craig, we want to finish as close to the top step as possible – a win would be a fitting end to the weekend.”

Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)

  • Belgians start Croatia at the top of the championship standings
  • Two previous podiums in Croatia for Thierry and Martijn

Neuville said: “Croatia is one of the most demanding tarmac rallies I have ever competed in. There are lots of blind corners, crests and jumps – something very unusual for a tarmac event. I like the challenge of Croatia; the profile of the stages and the speed combined with the wide and narrow stages creates a unique test. But the roads are very similar to Belgian roads when it’s raining, so that creates some familiarity for us. The car needs to have the perfect setup for both wet and dry conditions because of the unpredictability of the weather – if the setup is wrong, we lose confidence. I would like to finish on the podium in Croatia: finishing in the top three is crucial to maintaining the championship lead. Our biggest target is to push for a top-step finish.”

Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (#8 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)

  • Estonians have finished second twice at Croatia Rally
  • Duo in search of first podium since rejoining team

Tänak said: “Croatia is a fun tarmac event. The grip is low and the surface can get quite dirty, but at the same time there are a lot of vertical crests and jumps with blind corners. Tarmac is quite rare nowadays on our calendar, we only do a couple of events per year, so it’s special. We have already driven on tarmac in Monte-Carlo and I would say the feeling there was not bad, and by the end of the rally we were getting quite close. We need to take that experience and get the balance right on the car to maximise the grip; if we do that we should have the package we need for Croatia. We definitely want to do well, so hopefully we get a good feeling from the start. We need a trouble-free event and we are ultimately always fighting for the win.”

Crew Notes: Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (#9 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)

  • Norwegians return for the second rally of their 2024 WRC campaign
  • Contention in Rally Regione Piemonte aided in preparations for Croatia

Mikkelsen said: “I am feeling very positive after a solid start to the season in Monte-Carlo. It’s great to be returning to the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid for a WRC round, especially after contesting Rally Regione Piemonte. Croatia is a unique challenge, but we have many years of rallying experience that we can use to make good judgements on stage. With the grip and weather changing all the time, good pace notes are an essential to doing well there. Obviously, our road position at the start of the weekend will be a disadvantage, especially if there is rain, due to the amount of mud that gets pulled up. We are ultimately targeting a podium, but if conditions get tricky then a top-five finish is where we want to end up.”

Weekend at a Glance

  • Croatia Rally commences on Thursday morning with Shakedown, followed by a Ceremonial Start at Zagreb’s National and University Library in the evening
  • Friday is both the first and longest day of competitive action, boasting an overall stage distance of 119.74km
  • Day One also contains no midday service, despite featuring two passes of the rally’s longest stage: Krašić – Sošice (23.63km)
  • After 108.76km of stages on Saturday, the event concludes on Sunday with four final tests, including the Power Stage of Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec 2 (14.24km).

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