Last year’s Croatia Rally winner Kalle Rovanperä topped the timesheets at Thursday’s shakedown ahead of this weekend’s Croatia Rally, the first full asphalt rally of the 2023 WRC season.
Rovanperä clocked a 1:52.8 in his third and final pass through the 3.65 km long Okić shakedown stage. Ott Tänak and Sébastien Ogier were joint second fastest, eight-tenths shy of Rovanperä’s benchmark.
Every car pays tribute to Craig Breen with the name and quotes of the popular Irish driver who passed away last week following an incident in testing. The Hyundai Rally1 cars of Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi run special livery for Breen themed in the Irish flag.
The drivers expressed their emotions and paid their tributes to Breen at the stop-line of the first pass through shakedown.
Ott Tänak said: “It’s difficult, it’s demanding. It’s so hard for all of us. It’s empty inside and it’s eating us alive. It’s tough.
“I promised to give a smile to Jackie [Breen’s mother]. She had so much positive energy when I was there last Sunday. They are such lovely people. […]
“Thank you so much for that energy. We keep going, and so do you. Thank you,” the 2019 WRC champion said.
Hyundai driver Lappi said: “The car looks amazing. The team did an amazing job to make it look like this at such short notice.
“I said to Janne [Ferm, Lappi’s co-driver] that I was shaking at the finish line, and not because I pushed hard. Every one of us takes it in different ways and for me it’s tough,” he said.
Fellow Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville said: “We are all very sorry for what happened. It’s going to be a tough rally for everybody but as a team and as a rally family we need to be strong and keep going. That is what Craig would have wanted.”
All drivers set their fastest shakedown times in their third run except Pierre-Louis Loubet and Elfyn Evans.
Lappi was fourth fastest, 0.6s behind Tänak/Ogier and half a second ahead of Takamoto Katsuta while Thierry Neuville was just 0.2s adrift of Katsuta.
Pierre-Louis Loubet was seventh fastest in shakedown, 0.4 seconds down on Neuville in what was a closely-matched shakedown as the top 7 were just 2.5 seconds adrift of each other.
Elfyn Evans only completed the stage once as he hit technical troubles in his first run. The Welshman managed to complete the stage, albeit almost 50 seconds off the pace, and returned to service. After returning to service, Evans didn’t head back to the shakedown stage.
This evening, there is a Ceremonial Start in Zagreb at 18:30 CEST (local time). Tomorrow, there are eight stages scheduled, totalling 130.18 kilometres against the clock. The first stage gets underway at 8:03 local time (CEST, 07:03 BST).
WRC Croatia Rally 2023 – Shakedown results
|#||Drivers||Car||Time / Diff. to 1st|
|1.||Rovanperä / Halttunen||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||1:52.8|
|2.||Tänak / Järveoja||Ford Puma Rally1||+0.8|
|2.||Ogier / Landais||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+0.8|
|4.||Lappi / Ferm||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+1.4|
|5.||Katsuta / Johnston||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+1.9|
|6.||Neuville / Wydaeghe||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+2.1|
|7.||Loubet / Gilsoul||Ford Puma Rally1||+2.5|
|8.||Cais / Těšínský||Skoda Fabia RS Rally2||+6.9|
|9.||Solberg / Edmondson||Skoda Fabia RS Rally2||+7.1|
|10.||Rossel / Dunand||Citroën C3 Rally2||+7.2|
Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing