Any driver expecting a straightforward sealed-surface encounter in the Croatia Rally’s (22 - 25 April) first championship appearance will have had their illusions shattered by the time they complete the two-day recce on Wednesday afternoon.
Those in the know suggest the four-day route near capital city Zagreb features six distinct types of asphalt, ranging from super-smooth via worn to badly broken. And there are some especially challenging stages where the surface constantly switches from one form to another.
Round three of the season kicks off in Zagreb, with Thursday evening’s start ceremony at the National and University library a pre-cursor to three days of competition.
Video: Rally Route - Croatia Rally
Friday’s opening leg comprises two loops of four mainly short tests in the highland areas of Samoborsko Gorje, Žumberak and the Karlovac region, south-west of Zagreb.
After a gentle introduction through Rude – Plešivica (6.94km), Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh (23.76km), Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok (10.10km) and Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki (9.11km) lead into service in the city and an afternoon repeat. The eight tests total 99.82km.
Saturday is the longest leg of the weekend at 121.92km and follows a similar format in the same area as Friday, traversing stunning springtime scenery in the Žumberak nature park.
Tough tests at Mali Lipovec – Grdanjci (20.30km) and the narrow and twisty Stojdraga – Gornja Vas (20.77km), regarded as the toughest of the rally, open each loop.
They are followed by the shorter Krašić – Vrškovac (11.11km) and Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa (8.78km) before service and an afternoon re-run.
Sunday’s finale features the widest roads of all. The opening Bliznec – Pila (25.20km) on the Medvednica mountain, north of Zagreb, is the longest of the rally. It is followed by Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec (14.09km).
• Full coverage from the Croatia Rally is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.
• Pictures by Sinisa Motorpresse