Return of fans at WRC Rally Croatia good news for all

Fans have only been able to officially attend one WRC round in the past nine months, at September’s Rally Estonia, with all personnel wearing masks plus a headcount limit on stages.

At Rally Croatia, the wait for at least some people to line the competitive route which stretches 300 competitive kilometres looks set to end.

Daniel Saskin – the president of the event’s organising committee – confirmed to Autosport recently that plans are in place to facilitate small groups in a way that is safe, to limit the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday evening, Saskin said: “They will not be banned – but we should not encourage them to come. [If they do come], in the open air they will have to have masks and keep their distance.”

Asked if he was pleased at the idea of having even just a few spectators back, seven-time champion Ogier said: “Yes, of course – everybody is looking forward to the time where fans can come again and enjoy the show.

“They are crucial for the sport. Ultimately, car manufacturers are investing in the sport to show their product to the fans and the public, so yeah, it is good news as long as it is happening in a safe condition.

“It’s good news and I think everyone will be happy to see them back.”

Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC

Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Ogier feels opening the WRC up to people again, coupled with the unknowns of Rally Croatia from a teams’ perspective – will make for an interesting weekend of action out on the roads around Zagreb.

“I’m always happy to go to new rallies and to new events,” he said. “That makes the WRC very exciting.

“Rally is all about going into new stages that you don’t know, and having to trust your pace notes and trying to make the best out of it.

“I think it is going to be quite challenging because the roads look quite tricky and there is a lot of changeable grip.

“Another big part of this challenge will be the tyres; we had a little view on the Monte of the asphalt tyres but this will be the first real asphalt event, so a big part I think will be adapting as fast as possible to the new tyres and using them to their best,” he added.

Ogier joined Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mates Kalle Rovanpera – the current WRC points leader – and Elfyn Evans in Croatia earlier this month for a pre-event test.

Afterwards, all three declared themselves happy with their work, and the data they managed to collect during the course of the exercise.

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