WRC Croatia Rally Preview: WRC1
The 2023 World Rally Championship Season continues this weekend with round four, Croatia Rally.
WRC1 Championship Standings
Eight time World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier sits in the championship lead early on this season. As Ogier is one of only two drivers to win an event this season. With Ogier taking wins at both Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rally Guanajuato Mexico. Ott Tänak is the only other driver with a win so far this season. Thierry Neuville sits second in the championship, just three points back from Ogier. Reigning World Rally Champion Kalle Rovanperä sits third in the championship, a mere point behind Neuville. Ott Tänak sits fourth, five points back from Rovanperä. Elfyn Evans rounds out the championship top five, sitting three points back from Tänak. The championship race can still go in any direction. As just 21 points separate first and fifth. Although that gap will likely change after the Croatia Rally. As Sebastien Ogier has won one of the two runnings of Croatia Rally at the WRC level. With Ogier taking the win in the event’s WRC debut in 2021. It is also an event Toyota has done good at. With the Japanese manufacturer taking both event wins.
Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
The Toyota Gazoo World Rally Team has been off to a good start, on paper. As Sebastien Ogier has been the only Toyota driver to break the top two this season. Reigning Champion Kalle Rovanperä has gotten off to a slow start compared to last season. For reference heading into Croatia Rally last season Rovanperä had won both Rallye-Monte Carlo and Rally Sweden. Rovanperä would also take the win at Rally Croatia last year, exiting the event with a 50 point championship lead. Takamoto Katsuta has also gotten off to a rocky start this year. As the freshly promoted driver has only taken six points so far this season. All of those points came at Rallye-Monte Carlo. Katsuta would retire from Rally Sweden twice, and once from Rally Guanajuato Mexico. Elfyn Evans has been consistent to start the season. That doesn’t mean he’s been great however. As Evans’ highest finish came during Rallye-Monte Carlo where he placed third. Evans’ would place fourth at both Rally Sweden and Rally Guanajuato Mexico.
Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
The Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team has been off to a rough start to their 2023 season. As their the only team without a rally win so far this season. Craig Breen and Thierry Neuville have both placed second. Esapekka Lappi was on track to win Rally Guanajuato Mexico, that was until a crash and subsequent retirement ended his chances of winning. Hyundai will only run two cars at the Rally Croatia. This comes after the passing of Craig Breen during pre-event testing for Rally Croatia.
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
The M-Sport World Rally Team has been off to a respectable start this season. As they’ve been the only team to beat Toyota this season. As Ott Tänak would take the win at Rally Sweden last month. Tänak has adapted to the Ford Puma Rally1 seemingly well. With Tänak finishing top five at two of the three events so far this season, and likely would’ve taken another at Rally Mexico if he didn’t have a turbo failure on day two. Pierre-Louis Loubet has been off to a slow start. With Loubet only finishing one rally without a retirement or crash out.
To Honour A Fallen Driver
This weekend won’t just be about who wins or who loses. This weekend will be to honour the late Craig Breen. Craig Breen’s life would tragically end in a crash during the pre-event test for Rally Croatia. Breen was only 33 years old and had yet to hit the prime of his Rally career. Breen’s energy will be dearly missed within the paddocks this weekend and beyond. Hyundai will honour Craig with an Irish-flag livery. Toyota and M-Sport will honour Craig with stickers on their cars.