Toyota driver Sebastien Ogier won the first Rally of Croatia with a margin of 0,6 seconds, after a head-to-head trip to the last stage with teammate Elfyn Evans and Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville. All three pilots took turns taking the lead of the rally. The first race of the 2019 World Junior Rally Championship for two-wheel drive cars was also run in Croatia, the WRC's first full asphalt stage since August 2021. British driver Jon Armstrong, who won the action-packed race, took his first title.
Winning tires were produced in Izmit
Manufactured at Pirelli's Izmit facilities, the P Zero RA hard-compound tire was used for the first time in Croatia (the soft-compound version of the tire was used in the Monte Carlo Rally, but cannot be considered a full asphalt rally because it is snow and ice). This decision played a key role in the outcome of the rally as the crews had to choose between hard and soft compounds during a rally where weather and asphalt were highly variable.
Key stage: SS1 Rude-Plesivica (6.94km)
The stage of the World Rally Championship, held for the first time in Croatia, was a road mosaic, from the perfect surface of freshly poured asphalt to gravelly rough floors. As the grip level shifted from turn to corner, complications in reading the road played a key role in this stage, setting the pace of the rally that ended with an incredibly small difference.
Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli Rally Events Manager, commented: “The first weekend of the championship on asphalt was very challenging as the roads were often dirty and slippery. This has been a big test for both pilots and tires. The information we have obtained shows that the wheels are damaged the most and thus immediately affect the condition of the tires. All teams and pilots had to deal with the damage caused by the rough asphalt and bumps to the wheels. As for the tires, we are satisfied with the wear levels; Despite the roughness of the ground and the high operating temperature of 150 degrees, wear was reasonably well controlled. We are now looking forward to the dirt track Portugal race, which mainly demands strength and durability from tires. ”
While new rallies always pose a bigger challenge than the current stages of the championship, Rally of Croatia takes it to another dimension. Pre-race expeditions and tests have become more important than ever, as no factory drivers have come to the country before and there are no vehicle videos on the roads used. The roads with narrow bends, twists and technical tests created an extraordinary course, with longer straights, blind slopes and big jumps.
While Mads Ostberg won an easy WRC3 victory with his Citroen C2 Rally 2 car, Pirelli's driver Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who has many European championship titles, won the WRC3 class by more than a minute at the wheel of the Skoda Fabia Evo. Jon Armstrong became the Junior winner with his Ford Fiesta Rally 4 car. As a result, all four different manufacturers in the four main classes won with different Pirelli tires.