Rally Sweden Preview 2017. Snow, snow and more snow!

 

After last year, when there were problems with the lack of snow on the run in to the event, this year Rally Sweden will be run further north in Torsby. The result of this is that 58% of the stages are completely new.

The total number of stages is 18, over a distance of 331.74km’s. This event brings special challenges, with setting up the car, including the new active diff that the 2017 WRC cars feature. All the cars run special, only for this event studded tyres, helping the cars gain traction over the snow-covered stages. This means that the cars are travelling much faster than you could ever imagine!

RALLY SWEDEN SCHEDULE

THURSDAY 9 FEBRUARY

8.00am: shakedown (Skalla)

8.04pm: Start of day 1 (Karlstad)

8.08pm: SS1 – Karlstad 1 (1.90km)

9.54pm: End of day 1 (Torsby)

FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY

6.50am: Start of day 2 and service A (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.59am: SS2 – Röjden 1 (18.47km)

9.06am: SS3 – Hof-Finnskog 1 (21.26km)

10.20am: SS4 – Svullrya 1 (24.88km)

11.56am: Service B (Torsby – 30 mins)

1.20pm: SS5 – Röjden 2 (18.47km)

2.27pm: SS6 – Hof-Finnskog 2 (21.26km)

3.51pm: SS7 – Svullrya 2 (24.88km)

5.15pm: SS8 – Torsby 1 (16.43km)

5.55pm: Flexi Service C (Torsby – 45 min)

SATURDAY 11 FEBRUARY

6.54am: Start of day 3 and service D (Torsby – 15 mins)

8.08am: SS9 – Knon 1 (31.60km)

9.17am: SS10 – Hagfors 1 (15.87km)

10.08am: SS11 – Vargåsen 1 (14.27km)

11.29am: Service E (Torsby – 30 mins)

12.58pm: SS12 – Knon 2 (31.60km)

2.17pm: SS13 – Hagfors 2 (15.87km)

3.08pm: SS14 – Vargåsen 2 (14.27km)

5.45pm: SS15 – Karlstad 2 (1.90km)

7.41pm: Flexi Service F (Torsby – 45 min)

SUNDAY 12 FEBRUARY

6.35am: Start of day 4 and service G (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.55am: SS16 – Likenäs 1 (21.19km)

9.58am: SS17 – Likenäs 2 (21.19km)

12.18pm: SS18 – Torsby 2 (16.43km)

1.00pm: Podium (Torsby)

Last year’s result looked like this.

1. S. Ogier/J. Ingrassia (F/F), 1h 59m 47.4s

2. H.Paddon/J.Kennard (NZ/NZ), + 29.8s

3. M.Østberg/O.Fløene (N/N), + 55.6s

4. A.Mikkelsen/A.Jæger (N/N), + 1m 10.8s

5. O.Tänak/R.Mõlder (EST/EST), + 1m 50.7s

6. D.Sordo/M.Martí (E/E), + 2m 24.0s

7. H.Solberg/I.Minor (N/A), + 2m 40.0s

8. C.Breen/S.Martin (IRL/GB), + 2m 44.6s

9. E.Evans/C.Parry (GB/GB), + 5m 17.0s

10. P.Tidemand/J.Andersson (S/S), + 5m 31.7s

Now, in Rallye Monte Carlo, Thierry was driving brilliantly and just a little mistake meant he didn’t take the win. He’ll be looking to put that right in Sweden though. Also, Kris in his C3 WRC will want to get his challenge for the championship underway, after a nightmare Rallye Monte Carlo which ended with getting hit by a spectators car.

Here are the thoughts of the drivers ahead of this amazing rally.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “Rally Sweden is a unique event on the calendar, as it is the only event where the cars are fitted with proper studded tyres on the snow for the duration of the rally. Also it is one of the fastest rallies of the season, with the average speeds through some of the stages higher than anywhere else that we’ll see this season. Obviously with the snow, the tyres and the high speeds, a lot of experience is necessary to mount a challenge, but I’m confident having competed here on many occasions. We have had some good results in previous years. We are looking forward to trying to build upon those with even more success – particularly after the promise and ultimate disappointment of Monte-Carlo.”

Dani Sordo said: “I think that everyone involved with the team would agree that Rally Sweden is a very special event. If we can get good conditions on the road with the snow and the snowbanks, it becomes a really enjoyable event, because the speed gets quicker and quicker. We had a good finish in Monte-Carlo, so we are looking to push on from there and try our best to get a strong result in Sweden.”

Hayden Paddon said: “Rally Sweden is a bit of a winter wonderland. Along with Finland, it’s one of my favourites. It is very fast and filled with lots of jumps. The sensation of driving on snow and with the snow banks is like no other. We came second in Sweden last year and we’re hopeful that we can go one better this time out, especially given the speed of the new cars this season, and the potential shown by our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I have some very nice memories of Sweden as this was my first rally win, back in 2008, but the circumstances are very different now! I did some snow testing before Christmas with the Yaris WRC and last week as well: even in that short time there have been some big improvements in the car and the whole team, which is the main aim as our target more than anything else this year is just to keep getting better. The result in Monte was a very nice surprise but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the same in Sweden: we need to remember that this is still a completely new team and brand new project. So far the temperature in Sweden seems to be quite warm, so we could find conditions similar to previous years, which are never easy. I hope we get some nice minus degrees soon, as that will provide the best show for everyone.”

Juho Hänninen

“I have done three days of testing on snow, with the aim of finding a good set-up. In Monte, I had a really good set-up before the start of the rally, which actually I did not change much: this was a key to finding good confidence with the car. I learned a lot from Monte, but as Sweden is so different, it’s really like starting over again. Of course, it will depend a lot on the conditions: during the test we also tried to find roads that were a bit damaged so we could simulate what we might find on the rally and see how the car moves when the studs come out of the tyres. I’m looking forward to the weekend, as Sweden is one of the rallies I have done most and of course the tyre choice is a lot simpler than it is on Monte. But we will still approach it in the same way, step by step, as our preparation time has not been big.”

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier said:

“We had a dream start to the season at Rallye Monte-Carlo, but we can’t let that distract us. There is still a lot of work to do and Rally Sweden is a truly unique event.

“It’s an event that I really enjoy and we reach incredible speeds on the snow and ice – something that will only increase with the new cars this year. That means that there are no margins for error and you have to be very precise. There are often just a handful of seconds separating each competitor, so every second really does count.

“If we can secure another podium result next week, it would be a fantastic start and surpass all of our expectations this early in the year. I see no reason why we can’t be quietly confident of that, but at the same time it will require a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

“We’ve not yet seen everyone’s true potential, and I’m expected a very exciting and very close-fought Rally Sweden.”

Ott Tänak said:

“I’m really looking forward to Rally Sweden. It’s one of my favourite events on the calendar and the high-speed stages give you such an adrenaline rush. This year, with the more powerful cars, it will be something very special.

“The stages are so much fun to drive – really fast and flowing, and very smooth. We need to be relaxed and focused and get into a good rhythm. I hope for nice ice conditions and to be in a position to fight at the top.

“The most important thing will be to have a good feeling from the start and then have a clean run. Hopefully the weather conditions will be in our favour and we can have some nice snowbanks to give us some extra support if needed.

“The lines are also very narrow and that’s maybe the most difficult part of the rally. In case of fresh snow you need to make sure you stay in the line – otherwise you go from good grip to no grip at all!

“I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel, and I think we have the potential to secure another good result.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans, DMACK WRC driver, said: “We had a successful event last year winning WRC 2 and made a confident start to this season with a strong performance on Monte. Sweden is never an easy rally but I enjoy the high-speed stages and the challenge this unique event delivers. We will be giving it our all once again.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“After a disappointing Monte-Carlo, both for me and the team as a whole, it’s difficult to feel fully confident coming into Rally Sweden. We have learned the lessons from the opening round and we’ll come back stronger at the upcoming events. It’s a long season. I’m happy to be back at one of my favourite rallies. In theory, I come here aiming to win, but we know that everyone’s performance level will depend in large part on the weather conditions. If it snows before the rally, my starting position for the first leg will be ideal. On the other hand, if we have a mild spell that melts the ice, then my chances would be reduced. We’ll do our very best.”

Craig Breen

“I’m very excited about making my competitive debut with the Citroën C3 WRC! I can’t wait to get started. This is something that I’ve been waiting for all my life. I have good memories from this rally, not least the 2016 event, which was my first WRC outing with Citroën. I’d also say that this surface is little bit more forgiving of minor mistakes, or at least that is the case when there are really compact snow banks! I feel confident in these surroundings, in the car and with the team. And although we don’t really know what to expect, I’m ready to rise to the challenge.”

Stephane Lefebvre

“Rally Sweden is certainly the one where I have the most to learn, since I have only competed here once before, two years ago, in the DS 3 R5. So, from that point of view, I won’t be frustrated to be driving a previous-generation car. With the pressure off, I’ll be able to progress at my own pace. My aim will be to bounce back after a difficult Monte-Carlo. It’s difficult to make predictions or to set myself a specific target, but we’ll be looking to seize the slightest opportunity to score points.”

Mads Østberg will run his own independent team in the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship. The team is a joint operation with Martin Prokop’s Jipocar World Rally Team, and Østberg will start the season at Rally Sweden with a Ford Fiesta WRC entered by M-Sport.

“Now I am feeling optimistic,” said Østberg. “Things have happened in a very short time, M-Sport managed to deliver a car last week and I got two very good days of testing in Sweden, Saturday and Sunday. Nobody should doubt that I’m still hungry as a rally competitor, and I will drive for top positions this season.”

“How much faster we will drive on the stages is difficult to calculate,” said the Norwegian, “but I can tell you that these new cars are seriously fast machines! We had 250 kms of testing in Sweden last weekend and I really enjoyed driving the Fiesta. I think I have found a good base set-up, but the car is so much faster than the old Fiesta that the biggest challenge is to adapt to the extra speed and braking into corners.”

Østberg’s best result in Sweden came in 2011 when he shocked the establishment by taking the lead in the rally and also keeping it until the last day. In the end he was beaten by only 6.5 seconds to Mikko Hirvonen.

“Rally Sweden is definitely one of my favourite rallies,” said the Norwegian. “With the feeling I have for the new car after the test I am really looking forward to show that I’m still able to stay with the fastest guys.”

Now, this event has some great stages, including Vargåsen stage which is run twice on Saturday and features Colin’s Crest. The drivers look to get some serious air from this one and last year Eyvind Brynildsen set a massive 45 metre record. With the more powerful cars and better aerodynamics, what chance a new record this year?

Of course, the teams find this event massively challenging, with sub-zero temperatures making service very, very hard for the mechanics. Laurent Fregosi, Citroen’s technical director, explains the challenges with the setup of the cars:

“Over the years, we have learned to cope with the specific challenges posed by this rally. The settings are different to those used on gravel and we have noted in testing that the C3 WRC responds well with our usual solutions. If the conditions deteriorate, with less snow and ice, we will need to be able to adjust the set-up, adapting the suspension to the ruts that form on the racing line. In those sorts of conditions, the tyre’s studs tend to break, so we would need to limit this phenomenon by making changes to certain settings. As the cars cover more ground, snow tends to build up on the car and the increased weight can reduce performance. We took this into account when we designed the bodywork, but this phenomenon remains inevitable.”

Also, M-Sport’s Miguel Cunha, Chief Technician to Seb and Julien explains how hard it can be to work on the cars.

The cold; we service outside and trust me when I say that it is cold. Rally Sweden might not be known as a car breaker, but it definitely delivers the most challenging services for the technicians.

The simplest of jobs are made that much harder in those temperatures. You lose all feeling in your hands and that is a technician’s worst nightmare!

I believe that we are set up for a fantastic event and year, but I will say that it’s really important to for the spectators to stand in the right places. Spectate safely, all those that will be stage side. The latest news from the organisers is that it snowed last week, the roads are icy and that the forecast looks good. It’s currently minus 3 degrees centigrade!

Warren Nel

6th February 2016

Share the passion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *