WRC Croatia: Why tyres matter in Croatia | Pirelli

WRC Croatia: Why tyres matter in Croatia

The Croatia Rally is the first pure asphalt rally of the WRC season, so Pirelli provides a different package of tyres compared to January's Rallye Monte-Carlo when snow and ice are to be expected. The soft P Zero is joined by the hard compound version, and there's also a Cinturato wet-weather tyre available, in case it rains.

The ever-changing grip levels mean that tyre choice can be crucial in Croatia, especially if the often-unpredictable weather comes into play. Teams have previously encountered snow while testing in the area in the weeks leading up to the rally, and the 2022 event was dominated by rain

Tyre strategy came to the fore last year; especially on the final day when conditions varied considerably across a loop of four stages. Ott Tanak's choice of four soft tyres alongside two wets allowed him to take 30 seconds out of Kalle Rovanpera (who chose four hards and two wets) in a soaking penultimate stage and snatch the lead. But the sun came back out before the finale and, despite many damp patches remaining on the road, Rovanpera set the fastest time to take the victory, demonstrating the versatility and durability of the P Zero hard tyre for rallying.

WRC Croatia for dummies

Croatia is one of the newest destinations on the World Rally Championship calendar, having only made its debut in 2021, but it has already earned a reputation for a demanding asphalt event that provides exciting action and close finishes.

Away from the country's sparkling Adriatic coast, the rolling hills around the capital city of Zagreb still provide a beautiful setting for the Croatia Rally. But the pleasant green springtime vistas hide the numerous and varied challenges awaiting the drivers in the stages.

Grip levels are constantly changing, partly because of the large variety of different asphalt surfaces: some of them super-smooth and recently-laid but others broken and abrasive. The character of the roads can vary just as much. Some sections are technical and twisty, but many are fast with crests and jumps thrown in: something usually associated more with gravel events like Rally Finland.

Asphalt rallies are sometimes labelled as boring compared to their gravel counterparts, but that criticism certainly can't be levelled at Croatia. The inaugural WRC round there in 2021 was the closest to ever be held on this surface (and third-closest of all time) with Sebastien Ogier beating Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans to the win by just 0.6 seconds. A year later, the lead changed hands again on the very last stage; Kalle Rovanpera overhauling Ott Tanak by the slightly more comfortable margin of 4.3 seconds as tyre strategy came to the fore in a rain-affected rally.