Much of the focus will be on how M-Sport Ford driver Teemu Suninen performs in a Fiesta Rally2 machine. The Finn is taking a step back from his World Rally Car for this event and will have to battle with some seriously quick drivers if he is to claim victory in Zagreb.
"The more time I get behind the wheel of any rally car the better, and I’m looking forward to experiencing this new event and discovering the Croatian stages," said Suninen.
One of the drivers he will face is 2020 champion Mads Østberg, who opens his title defence in Croatia. He almost won a warm-up rally in Hungary last week, but a puncture on the final stage dropped him to fifth.
The Norwegian will pilot a similar Citroën C3 Rally2 to the one which carried him to glory last year, albeit with some aero, brake system and transmission upgrades.
Toksport team driver Andreas Mikkelsen will be going all-out to extend his advantage at the top of the series standings.
Mikkelsen struggled to match Esapekka Lappi’s leading pace at Arctic Rally Finland in February, but believes the asphalt roads used during this week’s event will favour his Skoda Fabia Rally2.
“I’m looking forward to the fast asphalt roads of Croatia, which should suit our Skoda and its well-balanced chassis and suspension,” explained the Norwegian.
The Croatia Rally also welcomes a new face in the form of Tom Kristensson. The 29-year-old sealed the FIA Junior WRC title last year and, as part of his prize, will steer an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 on his series debut.
Other entries include Arctic Rally Finland podium-finisher Nikolay Gryazin in a Movisport-prepared Volkswagen Polo, who defeated Østberg in their Hungarian warm-up.
Bolivian hotshot Marco Bulacia is also entered in a Fabia. He was forced to sit out the last event after visa issues prevented him from travelling. We’re expecting to see a big push from the Fabia star to make up for lost ground.
Enrico Brazzoli also joins the action in another Skoda. The Italian’s last outing was in Monte-Carlo, where he ended sixth in class.
- Full coverage from the Croatia Rally will be 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.