The third time on Croatian fast and bumpy tarmac roads brings only marginal changes with one extended and one completely new stage. However, considering the tricky conditions in 2022, some stages could still be considered new. Last year the itinerary length was only 291 km long, but this year it’s above the 300 km minimum limit, but just barely.
Cover image by Dontcut.rallyfans / Lukas (C)
Maps @ rally-maps.com
The Okiç shakedown is the same as last year. The very start is on a wide road but for the most part the stage is quite narrow, patchy worn, bumpy and angular. There’s straight or flat out passages, but also surprisingly tricky corners and buildings close to the road bringing technicality. At the end there’s a junction turn behind a crest, where the road becomes a bit wider but still quite narrow, and it’s steeply downhill. There is also a chicane midway through, going around a triangular junction.
This shakedown is quite representative of the rally, apart from the widest or Corsica-style sections. The shakedown also features crests and even jumps, which will feature prominently on the actual stages.
Like previously, there is no super specials in the rally so Thursday evening has no program other than the ceremonial start.
Friday is competitively longest day of the rally with 130 km of stages, but the liaisons in turn are short. The stages are the same as last year with just one stage extended a bit.
SS1+5 Mali Lipovec – Grdanjci has several surface and rhythm changes in its 19 km length. It’s very technical and one of the slowest stages of the rally.
The start is on a wide and mostly fast-flowing road (with the dreadful donut where Craig Breen had a puncture in 2021). The surface is first smooth with high grip but turns suddenly into worn and slippery, almost like going onto a gravel section, ending in a tight junction turn where Gus Greensmith had a close call in the rainy conditions last year.
The next road is narrow, worn and often very dirty. It’s a tricky with crests as well as buildings and rock walls next to the road. There are lots of tight corners, even hairpins.
The road surface improves at 10 km, and there are also a couple of faster passages. A wider road with fresh tarmac surface is reached at 12.4 km but it’s still quite sinuous. The surface becomes again more worn at 14.5 km with the corners as frequent as in Corsica.
Last year Esapekka Lappi’s effort was cut short here already on the first stage of the rally.
SS2+6 Stojdraga – Hartje is another sinuous and relatively slow stage. For this year it is extended by 5 km from the end, making it now the longest stage of the rally at 25.67 km. Craig Breen had a small off and Gus Greensmith a spin on this stage last year.
The road is again quite Corsican – medium wide with a worn and patchy surface, stuck between ravine and rock wall with a constant flow of medium-pace corners. Mostly there’s really no rhythm or surface changes except for a bit of fresh tarmac at 7.8 km and a couple of faster passages after the midpoint and on the new ending. The new section also features three strawbale chicanes, likely to prevent accidents in small villages that the stage passes.
After two slow stages we get a proper shakeup on SS3+7 Krašić – Vrškovac which was the fastest stage of the 2021 rally with 120 km/h of average speed on the second pass. Last year Adrien Fourmaux crashed right at the start of the stage.
Most of this stage is driven on a wide road with a somewhat worn slippery surface, while the beginning and the end are on fresh and grippy tarmac. It’s mostly fast-flowing with only a handful of tight turns or more technical passages. There’s also a chicane on a particularly fast section. Furthermore, anti-cut blocks and concrete kerbs make cutting difficult on this stage. In 2021 Yohan Rossel rolled on this stage, 8.1 km from the start.
SS4+8 Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki is also a relatively fast stage, and it’s also driven mostly on a medium-worn surface. The coolest thing about this stage are the numerous blind corners over crests and even occasional jumps! This stage is remembered from Adrien Fourmaux’s sideways jump, Takamoto Katsuta’s junction overshoot and Teemu Suninen’s off in 2021.
The beginning and the end are narrow and the middle part wide. There’s a technical section in the middle and two more in the end, as well as two junction turns.
Saturday is fairly short with only 116 stage kilometres but many hours of liaisons as the route goes South-West, close to the sea.
SS9+13 Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh is the longest stage of the day at almost 24 km of length. It’s mostly fast but has quite many technical sections as well as surface changes. This is the stage where Oliver Solberg crashed last year, as well as Andreas Mikkelsen took a wheel off and Takamoto Katsuta span in 2021.
The start is on a wide but medium worn road. The pace alternates between full flat out and Corsica-style strings of medium corners. The surface becomes more worn at 6.6 km but the constant rhythm changes remain similar.
At 11.7 km there’s a turn onto a road that is first narrow but becomes soon medium wide. The surface is even more worn, very slippery and bumpy, and there’s now crests (including a jump), but the pace retains still quite fast.
A few kilometres later there is a turn onto a narrow and smooth but slippery road which is fast-flowing over crests. However, this joy lasts only for 700m before another tight turn onto a wider and more worn road. It’s again quite fast and turning all the time. At 18.4 km the road becomes suddenly narrow, smooth but slippery and fast-flowing over crests including another jump, documented here:
After this section the corners start turning tighter and the pace slower, and finally just before the end the road becomes wide again.
SS10+14 Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa is another very fast stage, actually the fastest one last year with 114 km/h of average speed. Last year Craig Breen and Esapekka Lappi spun on this stage.
The start is on a medium wide and somewhat worn road. It’s quite angular with flat out passages being cut by things like tight corners, a pair of hairpins leading into a tunnel below a highway, a chicane, a narrow bridge and some junction turns. The fast sections involve also bends over crests and one heavy jump. The ending of the stage has a more constant flow of corners.
SS11+15 Ravna Gora – Skrad is the only new stage for this year. The start is on a quite worn medium wide road, fast and undulating. Quite soon the road becomes very narrow but remains fast apart from some sudden tight corners. There’s also a technical section at.3 km. After the hairpin junction turn at 6.7 km the road becomes more bumpy. The final 2.5 km of the stage is a bit wider but sinuous and very worn, even rough.
Throughout the stage there are many hazards close to the road, including houses in the numerous small villages the stage passes, trees in the deep forest and the narrow tunnel going below a highway. All in all it seems like a tricky stage.
SS12+16 Platak was a new stage last year. Kalle Rovanperä suffered a puncture here, Esapekka Lappi spun in the first corner and the whole second pass was canceled because of thick fog.
The stage begins on a quite narrow and relatively worn road, ascending to a skiing center. It starts sinuously and slowly, proceeds onto a fast passage and finishes medium paced technical. The spectator area at the top is slightly updated, but there’s still a donut – in the middle of the stage. The end of the stage is wide and downhill with occasional tight corners but mostly very fast.
Sunday is exactly the same as last year, with again quite long liaisons.
SS17+19 Trakošćan – Vrbno was a new stage last year, where the first pass produced a high average speed of 111 km/h but the second pass was driven in dreadfully difficult rainy conditions.
The stage starts on a very wide and smooth road at the Trakoscan castle area. First it’s quite sinuous, then faster. The surface is older from 3.1 km to 5 km.
At 7 km there’s a turn onto a narrower road which ascends and descends through hairpins, narrowing at the top. 4 km before the finish there’s a narrow and technical section. Then the rest of the stage is again medium wide, first fast-flowing and finally angular, with also a bit of fresh tarmac and three narrow bridges on the way.
SS18+20 Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec acts as the power stage like last year. It’s a quite different stage to all others. It’s narrow and angular with many tricky tight places. The road will also be very polluted thanks to fields next to the road or tree leaves in the forest sections. There’s also blind crests and jumps. Trees, buildings and other obstacles are close to the road.
At 10.5 km there’s a spectacular fast twisty passage, a junction over a narrow bridge onto a wider and smoother road, then yet another twisty part on a narrow road and finally a long acceleration which suddenly turns into a very wide road.
This stage has delivered all kinds of drama. In 2021 Adrien Fourmaux went off the road near the begin of the stage:
Last year Thierry Neuville went off on the power stage but was able to recover the car and finish on the podium. Kalle Rovanperä and Ott Tänak battled for seconds in tricky muddy conditions.
In 2021 everyone was on the limit. Gus Greensmith had a big save, Thierry Neuville an overshoot, Ogier almost losing control and finally Elfyn Evans going wide in the last corner of the whole rally!