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Sweden (S) - 9-12 Feb 12

Posted: July 19, 2012 2:29 PM - 4430 Hits

Round 2 - 2012 World Rally Championship
S - S2000 Championship

Latvala wins Rally Sweden as Ford nets six of the best

Posted: July 19, 2012 2:29 PM

Ford World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila won Rally Sweden today by 16.6sec after a tense finale to this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Victory in a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car was Ford's sixth consecutive success at the only true winter rally of the season.

It was Latvala's second win in Sweden, and it came despite his comfortable lead being slashed when he hit a rogue rock and punctured a tyre with just two more speed tests remaining before the finish. Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson finished fourth in another Fiesta RS WRC, losing a potential podium position when they hit the same rock, with the same outcome.

It was the 50th world rally win for the Ford / M-Sport partnership since it started in 1997, and Fiesta RS WRCs filled four of the top five places.

Although temperatures were milder than normal, the snow and ice-covered roads presented a tough challenge as the mercury hovered around -10ºC. After an opening leg based mainly in Norway, the rally returned to Sweden for the final two days' competition close to Hagfors. Drivers tackled 24 special stages covering 349.16km before this afternoon's finish in the host city of Karlstad.

Latvala stamped his mark on the rally from the first moment, by setting fastest time in Thursday's qualifying. It enabled the 26-year-old to select a start position well down the running order, to obtain better conditions after the loose snow was swept away.

He built a 16.8sec during Friday's opening leg and stretched his advantage over former team-mate Mikko Hirvonen to 23.0sec yesterday, after shrewd management of the stud wear on his Michelin tyres. He extended his lead to 35.6sec during today's final leg, before hitting an exposed rock in the rutted snow and ice and puncturing the front right tyre. v
The lead was cut to just 8.4sec, but fastest time under extreme pressure in the penultimate stage allowed him to pull clear again. It was Latvala's ninth stage win of the rally.
'Four years ago I won my first world rally here and became the youngest driver to do so,' he said. 'To come back and win for a second time is very special. After retiring from the first round last month, I was under heavy pressure to do well. After making a mistake and hitting a rock, I knew I had to summon some extra speed and attack hard through the penultimate stage.

'It feels like a heavy weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I've learned to stay calm when things go wrong and that paid dividends today. I knew Mikko would attack hard this morning so I was wide awake and ready for it. I had a comfortable lead before everything changed with just two stages to go, but I kept my cool,' he added.

Urged on by his home fans, Solberg held second on the opening day in Norway before a spin cost time. He ended the leg in third and remained there yesterday, despite pressure from fellow countryman Mads Østberg. The duo were separated by just 4.9sec when Solberg clipped the same rock as Latvala and the 37-year-old had to settle for fourth. However, he claimed bonus points by finishing second on the final Power Stage.
'I was disappointed to lose third, but I'm third in the championship and closed on the leader so it was a good weekend,' he said. 'I hit the same rock as Jari-Matti. I wasn't cutting the bend but it was in the middle of the ruts and I couldn't avoid it. It's my first rally in the Fiesta RS WRC on the loose and I'm really encouraged to have been so competitively so quickly.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson was delighted with the landmark victory for the Ford / M-Sport partnership.
'Jari-Matti dominated from start to finish. We had a scare towards the end. This morning we were concerned that he drove so fast when he had a big lead, but given what happened this afternoon, it's a good job he did. It's a milestone victory for the team and with the confidence he has in the car, I'm sure there will be more to come,' he said.

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said:
'A victory and seven cars in the top 10 represents a great weekend for Ford. Jari-Matti was in control from the very beginning and even when he received a setback this afternoon, he was strong enough to recover and seal the win. Petter drove well and his speed with a new car so early in the season bodes well for the future.'

News from other Ford teams
Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson celebrated their second consecutive Swedish podium with third in a Fiesta RS WRC after overhauling Solberg following his puncture. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team's Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet finished fifth, with Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor seventh in the Go Fast Energy World Rally Team car. Also in the top 10 were Czech Ford National Team duo Martin Prokop / Zdenek Hrûza and Norway's Eyvind Brynildsen / Cato Menkerud, taking ninth and 10th respectively. M-Sport Ford's Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk retired with engine troubles this morning, ending a frustrating rally for the Estonians who went off the road in each of the opening two legs.

Next round
Round three takes Ford World Rally Team to North America for the first long-haul round of the season and the opening gravel event of 2012. Rally Mexico is based in Léon on 8 - 11 March.

HIRVONEN’S FIRST PODIUM FINISH WITH CITROËN

Posted: July 19, 2012 2:27 PM

With clear gaps already established between the frontrunners, the third and final day of Rally Sweden saw no changes at the top of the overall standings. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen ended their second rally with the Citroën Total World Rally Team by securing second spot on the podium. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena keep the lead in the Drivers' World Championship with the points awarded for sixth place and the best time in the Power Stage. Citroën also holds onto its first position in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.

Much shorter and compact than the first two days, day three of Rally Sweden was disputed on stages not far from the service park: Lesjöfors, Rämmen and Hagfors, a stage previously used in 2010 and also the venue for the Power Stage at the end of the rally. A fine layer of fresh snow had fallen overnight and covered the roads as the drivers set off through the fir tree forests.

Lying second, 23s behind Jari-Matti Latvala, Mikko Hirvonen had few illusions early this morning about his chances of making up the ground under normal rallying conditions. During the first loop of the three stages, he lost about ten seconds to his rival:
“I wasn’t comfortable on the first stage, we made some changes to the set-up but I found the car difficult to drive on the narrow sections.”

Sébastien Loeb, who wasn’t particularly looking forward to the Power Stage, pursued his somewhat lonely race in sixth:
“I have rarely driven on stages as unpleasant as those here. Obviously, it’s very slippery but there are also large rocks everywhere, so it’s difficult to push hard without taking huge risks.”

More comfortable on his second runs, Mikko Hirvonen closed the gap to Latvala to 8.4s after his rival picked up a puncture on Lesjöfors 2 (SS22):
“It was a very complicated stage, with a lot of gravel. I am pleased that I felt good in the car again. Jari-Matti’s puncture puts him under a little bit of pressure, but I’ll keep to my race plan. First and foremost, we have to finish the rally.”

After Latvala gave himself some breathing space on the penultimate stage, attention turned towards the Power Stage. Having looked after his Michelin X-Ice North tyres during the two long stages, Sébastien Loeb decided to push to try and get the fastest time and the three bonus points that go with it. He achieved his final goal, covering the stage over a second quicker per kilometre than second-placed Petter Solberg!
“I can’t be happy with the result, but we managed to do the main thing, which was to achieve the best possible point scoring in the circumstances,” acknowledged the eighttime World Champion. “We still lead the World Championship going into a long series of gravel rallies. Unlike Sweden, I have always done well in Mexico and I can’t wait to bounce back there.”

Runner-up Mikko Hirvonen moves up into second position in the Drivers’ World Championship standings:
“I can’t be totally satisfied as I didn’t win but the result is nonetheless a positive one. We worked well with the team and my feeling in the car has improved further. Although we are going to totally change surface for the next few rallies, all of this will be useful to me in the next event.”

“Loeb and Hirvonen top the Drivers Championship and Citroën is also top of the Manufacturers’ standings: these are the key points we’ll take away from Rally Sweden,” concluded Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “We think the DS3 WRC more than matched its competitors in terms of out-and-out performance, but the rally just didn’t quite go our way! I am also pleased that our five cars made it to the end of the rally without any mechanical problems at all.
That’s a great performance, which is down to the work put in by every member of the Citroën Racing team.”

SOLBERG SECURES FIRST POINTS IN SWEDEN

Posted: July 19, 2012 2:23 PM

Home advantage paid dividends for Henning Solberg as the 60th Rally Sweden played host to the Norwegian's first points scoring finish of the season. After 349.16 competitive kilometres, Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor secured seventh place overall in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC and a strong finish for the Go Fast Energy supported driver.

Hampered by poor road position, Solberg had to cope with copious amounts of snow on the stages making it difficult for the tungsten-tipped studs of his Michelin winter tyres to bite into the frozen road surface. With poor grip the Norwegian was unable to catch a charging Sébastien Loeb.

Nevertheless, securing seventh place overall, Solberg secured his first points of the season and will be looking for much of the same as the season heads to Mexico for the third round of the season.

Henning Solberg (7th) said:
'It has been a very nice rally for me. To come here with no testing and get a good few points is really very good for me and the team so I'm very happy.'

A RALLY FULL OF VALUABLE LESSONS FOR THIERRY NEUVILLE AND NASSER AL-ATTIYAH

Posted: July 19, 2012 2:22 PM

Rally Sweden, with its very specific road conditions, was the venue for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini’s first competitive outing in the Citroën DS3 WRC. The Qatar World Rally Team crew achieved their goal by reaching the finish without making any mistakes. It was very much the same story for Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul (Citroën Junior World Rally Team), who learned a lot throughout three-day event.

After he missed Rallye Monte-Carlo to take part in the Dakar Rally, Nasser Al-Attiyah began his WRC programme with Citroën Racing at this season’s only winter rally. On a surface with which he is certainly not familiar, the Qatari knew he would have to show restraint and focus on accumulating experience.
“My aim is not to set fast times, it is just to get to know the car, the team and their working methods better so we can prepare for the gravel rallies. I'll therefore be going at a sensible pace,” confirmed Nasser.

Throughout the three days of the rally, the Qatar World Rally Team driver stuck very precisely to his plan. Making changes to the set-up of his DS3 WRC from the half-way stage of the rally onwards, he felt that the confidence acquired here would be extremely useful to him for the rest of the season:
“I came into this rally having done very little testing. I am pleased to have completed all the stages and I enjoyed driving here. By trying different set-ups, I was able to assess the way that the car responded on the road. Although the next rally is on gravel, the experience acquired here on ice will be very useful. I am also very happy to have scored the Qatar World Rally Team’s first points in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.”

Also still learning about WRC, Thierry Neuville had started here with a similar mindset to Nasser. Growing in confidence as he negotiated more stages, the Belgian produced some good performances, finishing in the top 10 on seven of the twenty-four stages.

“This was the first time I have driven in conditions like these, so it was all new to me. Sometimes, I had to make a lot of corrections to my pace notes, which were a little bit optimistic,” specified the Citroën Junior World Rally Team driver. “When I felt good in the car and the road conditions were less tricky, I pushed more and my times were better. I think this experience also means that I will go into the next few rallies with a little more confidence.”

Peter Van Merksteijn Jr. and Eddy Chevaillier also made it to the finish without making any mistakes.
“This is an achievement for me,” said the Dutch driver. “I was worried about being caught out by the many pitfalls at this rally, but I managed to find the right pace to enjoy myself in the car. Driving on ice is great fun!”

2nd for Breen on SWRC Sweden

Posted: July 19, 2012 2:19 PM

Craig Breen, the reigning World Rally Academy Champion, has continued his fantastic start to the 2012 Super S2000 World Rally Championship by finishing second on this weekend’s World Rally Sweden. Breen, driving his Kel-Tech Engineering backed, Ford Fiesta S2000 took victory on the opening round in Rallye Monte Carlo, was able to back up that performance as the championship moved to the snow covered stages in Scandinavia and now has a commanding 18 points lead at the top of the SWRC championship standings.
“I’m delighted with result,” said Breen as he crossed the finish line of the 24th and final stage. “But first I want to congratulate P-G Andersson on his win; he suffered horrible luck on the ‘Monte’ when he retired with only two stages to go. For myself, I’m very pleased with this result; P-G is on home and has shown some incredible speed here over the three days. I managed to score a few fastest stage times myself and I’m happy with my overall pace. It’s a great start to the season and now we look forward to Portugal in March.”

Breen, who won the opening round of the season in Monte Carlo, suffered a puncture on the first stage on Thursday night as the rally got underway with the 1.5km ‘Superspecial’ at the Karlstad trotting arena. Swedish driver P-G Andersson set the SWRC pace in the Proton Motorsport, Satria Neo S2000 and was followed by Norwegian, Pontus Tidemand (Skoda S2000) +0.9 in arrears, with New Zealander Hayden Paddon a further 1.2 seconds away in third. Overnight Breen was 7th in SWRC 9.2 sec off Andersson and placed 37th overall.

Friday, the first full day covered nine stages, eight of which were located around remote service in the town of Kongsvinger across the border in Norway. The day was concluded by the second run over the ‘Superspecial’ in Karlstad. On the morning opener (SS 2) Breen immediately jumped to 5th in SWRC and was up to 3rd after stage three, the Irish driver being elevated to 18th overall after his early attack. This charge continued on stage four, where he recorded his first fastest SWRC stage time consolidating his class and overall position.

During the morning loop Andersson and Tidemand continued to dominate the class. Tidemand grabbed Andersson’s overnight lead when he set fastest time on stage two but this was only a temporary setback to Andersson as the Proton driver retook top spot on stage three and held a 7.4 sec advantage as the cars reached midday service.

In the Kongsvinger remote service, Breen reported,
"It's been a tough morning out there; we dropped time last night with a puncture. I knew P-G would be on a charge today and from stage two I committed 100%, my reward came on stage four with fastest stage time in the class. I’m now 41 seconds down but still in touching distance and the rally has just begun. I’m happy with the morning’s work.”

The action resumed with Opakar, stage six and all remained the same at the top of the SWRC leader board with Andersson leading from Tidemand in second +6.6 seconds and Breen, third +46.9sec.

The next piece of drama unfolded on stage eight when second placed Tidemand suffered a puncture after hitting a ‘Snowbank’ and a loss of three minutes was incurred, Breen was the benefactor here inheriting the Skoda driver’s position. Over the penultimate Torsby 19 km test there was no change to the standings and this was also repeated on the final stage of the day on the Karlstad ‘Superspecial’, Breen however had more luck then the previous night and recorded fifth best time (01:41.7) just 1.7 down on stage winner and class leader Andersson.

Ending the day 2nd in SWRC and 16th O/A, Breen stated, “On the Monte, I battled all through with P-G and the pattern continues here in Sweden. He and Pontus (Tidemand) have been setting a fast pace all day. As this is only my third competitive outing on snow I must be pleased. There’s still a long way to go and tomorrow will be a very challenging day but my second place is something to fight for so let’s fight.”

Day-two featured classic stages such as Sagen, Fredriksberg and Vargasen, which also included the famous Colin’s Crest jump, named in memory of the late Colin McRae. Breen enjoyed the good run over the morning loop taking fastest SWRC time on stage eleven, Vargasen 1 (24.63 km’s) and as he came into midday service he had narrowed Andersson’s advantage to less than a minute. At midday service, Breen said, “I’m in a good point’s position and I want to protect that. This afternoon's loop will prove more of a challenge as the stages will be rougher.”

That afternoon loop began with SS15, the rerun of Vargasen, Andersson was back in the groove after some setup changes and pulled another 6.3 sec out of the Irish driver but Breen was more worried by handling difficulties by the end of stage sixteen, reporting a problem with the front differential from early in the stage. But on assessment on the road section to stage seventeen it was discovered to be in fact a shattered brake disc. Craig and Gareth managed to make some emergency repairs, removing the broken disc and caliper. The twenty-two year old just nursed the car through the final two stages of the day and back to final service.

With his Kel-Tech Engineering Ford Fiesta S2000 fully repaired on Sunday morning, Breen took a cautious approach over the morning loop, a light dusting of snow and temperatures down to -10 made conditions very difficult. After completing the loop Breen stated,
“The conditions were very, very slippy out in the forests and here on the Hagfor’s stage the problem is that there’s less snow and rocks are coming through, so very tough and easy to make a mistake. In relation to my current position, I’m comfortably ahead of Pontus (Tidemand) in SWRC, so I just want to bring it home. There could be an opportunity to get passed Armindo Araújo in the overall standing but we’ll see what happens on the final loop.”

The final loop brought more of the same from Breen as he showed maturity, matching Tidemand’s pace over each of the closing three tests. He reported at the end of stage twenty-three,
“It is really difficult on that one, there’s lots of high speed stuff and I started to lose the studs in my tyres so I’m very pleased to be here and we now only have the final ‘Powerstage’ to go.” On the ‘Powerstage’, Craig again drove with safety in mind not taking any chances and brought home his Ford Fiesta in second place in SWRC and 16th overall. At the finish he said, “I’m very please, with this result we continued our form from the Monte. It was important to score some good points here, I knew that P-G would set the pace but he has competed here so many times and it’s only my second time here so, yeah a good result. Portugal comes next at the end of March and that will also be important, the Proton’s will not be there but Haydon Paddon should be on the pace so we now look forward to that.”

PROTON - Rally Sweden review

Posted: July 19, 2012 2:17 PM

PROTON Motorsports dominated the second round of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, with P-G Andersson taking a three-minute SWRC victory on Rally Sweden, which ended in Karlstad this afternoon.

The victory was a first for PROTON Motorsports, the Malaysian manufacturer which dominated the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship last season and stepped up to the world series for Super 2000 cars in 2012. Despite the Satria-Neo S2000 never having competed in the Arctic conditions, the two cars ran without any problems.

Andersson and co-driver Emil Axelsson were the class of the field throughout the three-day event, which was run in typically wintry conditions with temperatures closing on minus 20 in central Sweden and across the border in neighbouring Norway. The Satria-Neo S2000 was cheered all the way to victory by hardy Swedish fans who delighted in their hero’s maiden PROTON success at the highest level of Super 2000 rallying.

This was the second round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship which Andersson has dominated in three weeks, having built a seven-minute lead on Rallye Monte-Carlo, only to lose out when he was halted late in the day by an under-bonnet fire. This time, however, there was no stopping Andersson. Both his car and the sister Satria-Neo S2000 of reigning FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Alister McRae ran without fault throughout the event.

Scotsman McRae was returning to the World Rally Championship for the first time in five years and to this event for the first time in eight years. Unfortunately for McRae and co-driver Bill Hayes the exploration of two of Scandinavia’s deepest snow banks cost them time and positions on the leaderboard. They ended the event seventh in SWRC.

The PROTON Motorsports team arrived in Sweden on a high, having beaten reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion and Skoda factory driver Andreas Mikkelsen to Super 2000 victory on Rally Finnskog the week before the second SWRC round of the season. Andersson did the double over his Norwegian rival on Rally Sweden, beating Mikkelsen in the overall standings again on the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

PROTON Motorsports will now switch its focus to the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and towards Rallyes de Nouvelle Caledonie (April 2-29), the opening round of this year’s series. The Pacific island event will mark the start of the defence of PROTON and McRae’s 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship titles. Rally Sweden SWRC winner Andersson will join the Scot on the gravel down under.

Quotes:

P-G Andersson said:
“I was quite happy with the car after we’d had our test, but the testing is still not the same as coming to the SWRC for the competition. Early on, we were having a good battle with Pontus [Tidemand, Skoda driver], but then he had a problem and suddenly we had a good lead of something like two minutes. Then you really have to concentrate with your driving. If you are not attacking every corner, it’s possible the car is not working in the most effective way or you might have a brief lapse in concentration. Fortunately, I really love this rally, so I was able to keep the concentration and the enjoyment of the stages. I have done this event many times now and it’s incredible to have some success on my home round of the world championship. I am very, very happy with the result and for the team. PROTON came out fighting on round one in Monte Carlo and we have seen what the team is capable of this year!”

Alister McRae said:
“I think it’s fair to say that this wasn’t my rally! The back of the car touched a bank on the third stage and this just pulled the car into the snow. There was nothing we could do, it was well in there. The annoying thing is that, as soon as some spectators arrived, we had the car out in 30 seconds and it was completely undamaged. We had a similar problem on the second day, but this time we got the car out sooner and carried on in the stage. It was frustrating, but it was also great to be back and driving in the world championship again. There’s no doubting this is one of the best rallies around and to drive the PROTON down the snow and ice roads like that was fantastic. Fortunately for us, we were able to make it through to the finish to make some points, but obviously P-G’s win is great news for the team.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“This is a historic event for PROTON Motorsports. This is only our second event at the pinnacle of the sport and we’ve won, having pretty much dominated the first two rallies. We are very, very happy with the way things have worked out. P-G drove a great rally, didn’t put a foot wrong and showed why it’s a good idea to have a Swede in Sweden. Unfortunately for Alister, he was caught out by a couple of tricky places and the snow bank just pulled him in. Neither incident damaged the car, but they cost him some time and places on the leaderboard. Alister hasn’t competed here for quite a few years and coming into a competitive series like this on what is a pretty technical event isn’t easy. Obviously, as a team we’re delighted with this result. The car is halfway through its development programme so far and we’re winning rallies at the highest level; that’s fantastic news!”

Datuk Razak Dawood (head of Proton Motorsports) said:
“We are very pleased with this fantastic result. We were close to achieving our maiden victory in Monte Carlo, if not for the small fire in the finishing stages which robbed us of the victory. Our victory in Sweden is very sweet and testimony to the effort and hard work, especially on engine development and testing during winter done by MEM. In line with our philosophy of, ‘Committed to be Better,’ we have proven that we now have a better car and team capable of giving the big boys a good fight. We are very happy to see many fans who came to cheer PG and Proton. Our next event will be Rally Whangarei, the first round of the APRC. We are determined to defend our title and Rally Sweden was the perfect warm-up and shakedown for P-G and Alister.”

Results

Posted: July 19, 2012 2:15 PM

1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 3hr 18min 28.3sec
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Citroen DS3 WRC) 3hr 18min 44.9sec
3. M Østberg/J Andersson (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 3hr 19min 07.1sec
4. P Solberg/C Patterson (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 3hr 19min 42.6sec
5. E Novikov/D Giraudet (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 3hr 21min 09.7sec
6. S Loeb/D Elena (Citroen DS3 WRC) 3hr 21min 23.4sec
7. H Solberg/I Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 3hr 22min 17.8sec
8. P Sandell/S Parmander (Mini John Cooper Works WRC) 3hr 23min 37.2sec
9. M Prokop/Z Hrûza (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 3hr 23min 58.3sec
10 E Brynildsen/C Menkerud (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 3hr 24min 55.5sec

TÄNAK JOINS GO FAST FOR SWEDEN

Posted: February 9, 2012 1:48 PM

With the absence of Matthew Wilson (due to an injury during training last week) on this the second round of the Championship, Go Fast is pleased to confirm that Ott Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk will support Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor in promoting the Go Fast brand on the snow-covered stages of Rally Sweden this week.

Making his WRC debut at the 2011 season finale in Wales last year, Tänak impressed from the off. Overcoming early problems, the Estonian made an instant impact on the world stage to secure sixth place overall. The 24 year-old?s asphalt debut with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC soon followed as he teamed up with Ford Factory driver Jari-Matti Latvala at the 2011 Rallye du Var. Setting competitive times throughout, the youngster claimed his first stage win along with his first podium on the French asphalt.

2012 sees Tänak contest his first full season in the WRC with 13 rounds in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC. In a mature drive beyond his 24 years, the youngster proved he has intelligence as well as out right pace at the season opener in Monte-Carlo last month. On his first experience of the unforgiving roads, Tänak controlled his speed, gaining experience with each new stage to collate the valuable knowledge required to become a future Monte winner.

With his obvious speed behind the wheel and his ability to deliver a good result, Tänak is the perfect candidate to further promote the Go Fast brand.

SOLBERG GOING FAST FOR STRONG POINTS IN SWEDEN

Posted: February 9, 2012 12:48 PM

Following a freak accident during training last week and a broken left ankle for Matthew Wilson, Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor will lead the Go Fast Energy World Rally Team as the World Rally Championship heads to Sweden for the second round of the series.

Spanning two countries over more than 350 competitive kilometres, the 60th Rally Sweden will see the Go Fast team endure subzero temperatures testing both man and machine alike. Spectacular action is guaranteed on this the only true snow rally on the 2012 Calendar, and crowd-favourite Solberg will be out to impress on what is effectively the Norwegian's home event.

It was during one of Wilson's regular training sessions - fell running around the English Lake District - that the British driver took an awkward fall putting him and co-driver Scott Martin out of Rally Sweden. Having been rushed to hospital, doctors later confirmed that the 25 year-old had broken his left ankle.

Wilson had been due to complete 100km of testing in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC early this week and was looking forward to getting his 2012 season off to a competitive start with a good result on the more familiar Scandinavian stages. Unfortunately, the injury will see the Cumbrian out of action for the near future and the entire team wish him a speedy recovery.

Last month's Rallye Monte-Carlo saw an eventful opener to the season for Solberg. Blighted by cruel bad luck, and with no pre-season testing in the lead-up to the event, Solberg battled on to set competitive times throughout. Proving he has some real pace in the car, the charismatic Norwegian will be looking to translate the good form he demonstrated last month into a strong haul of points on the snow-covered Swedish stages.

In preparation for the second round of the season, Solberg contested Rally Finnskog alongside the likes of Mikko Hirvonen, Mads Østberg and Eyvind Brynildsen last weekend. Getting into the rhythm of winter rallying, Solberg impressed to finish second overall in a much less powerful Mitsubishi Evo 6. Despite losing valuable time with a spin on SS3, the Norwegian got the better of his compatriots to finish just 30 seconds adrift of eventual winner Hirvonen in a Citroën DS3 WRC.

The Go Fast driver will be looking to replicate last weekend's speed with a strong haul of points as he returns to his Ford Fiesta RS WRC this week.

Henning Solberg said:
"We're going to "Go Fast." Flat out. This is one of my favourite events and we'll be pushing for a good result.

"I'm really looking forward to the rally. This is like my home event and the fans are always absolutely amazing! There is always such a great atmosphere in the forests. The [Scandinavian] fans are some of the best in the world!

"I've got a really good feeling on snow after [Rally] Finnskog. We got the feeling just right straight away and everything was running well. Hopefully it will be the same next week [at Rally Sweden] and we can push for a really good result."

Speaking after his accident, Matthew Wilson said:
"I've broken and dislocated my left ankle so, unfortunately, that means no Rally Sweden for me and Scott [Martin].

"I was really looking forward to Sweden. We were a lot more prepared for this rally [than we had been for Rallye Monte-Carlo] and we would have been looking for a good result. I'm absolutely gutted."

SWRC leader Breen, confident before the Snow of Sweden

Posted: February 9, 2012 12:39 PM

FIA, World Academy Champion, Craig Breen got his SWRC (Super 2000 World Championship) season off to the perfect start at Rally Monte Carlo taking a maximum 25 points. Now as the season heads north to the snow of Sweden for round two, Breen is eager to continue his good start to the year.
“The Monte turned out to be one of the most difficult events of my career. Taking maximum points was a nice reward after a tough five days but we must now look forward to Sweden and consolidate our championship position.”

Over the last week Craig has been in Norway to carry out some testing for the only snow event of the season. “Brushing up on my snow and ice driving was important, getting used to grip levels and just driving in what is called “white out” where the roads and ditches are totally covered in snow takes a bit of time to adjust. Up to Christmas there hadn’t been much snow in Scandinavia but that’s changed over the last few weeks and the temperatures are currently at record lows ranging from -25 to -35 degrees, so it’s very cold. Our test session was broken into two parts, Tuesday and Wednesday was spent at John Haugland’s (Geilo 300 km’s North West of Oslo) snow and ice driving school and then I took on Finnskog here today. We retired on stage five, after hitting one of those famous snow banks but we were able to get some descent mileage under the belt. I was happy with our speed and I’m feeling very confident as we now head to Sweden”, said Breen on Saturday evening.

Featuring 360 competitive kms over 24 stages, 11 of which will be run twice, Rally Sweden which gets underway with a superspecial stage at Karlstad’s trotting track on Thursday evening (Feb 9).

The bulk of Friday’s stages will take place in Norway with a remote service halt in the town of Kongsvinger. The visit to Norway will stir memories of the country’s world championship qualifier, which last ran to great acclaim in 2009. Following a regroup in Torsby, back across the border in Sweden, crews will service in Hagfors before returning to Karlstad for a second run of the city’s superspecial stage.

Day two’s action includes classic stages such as Sagen, Fredriksberg and Vargasen, which features the famous ‘Colin’s Crest’ jump, named in memory of the late Colin McRae.

Sunday’s stages take place around Hagfors and include runs through Rammen and Hafors. The Hagfors Power Stage will bring the action to a close.

Looking ahead to the snow event Craig said,
“We competed on the event last year and finished 15th overall but I won’t be taking anything for granted. Every rally poses its own set of difficulties and Sweden is no different. Last Saturday (Rally Finnskog) starting out on the second loop of stages, I brushed a snow bank and damaged the suspension and was out. I also know that P-G Andersson, on his home event will be pushing hard and will be the favourite. This is also the first event where all the registered crews will be taking part.”

In the last week the FIA (sport’s governing body) have released the list of Super 2000 World Championship (SWRC) registered entrants and their respective nominated events and the second half of the season looks to be very interesting. In the SWRC entrants must nominate seven events out of a possible eight on which they have to participate. While just three crews started the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo last month, all six registered runners will compete in Finland, Great Britain, France and Spain.

On the release of the news, WRC Academy Champion, Breen said, “The ‘Monte’ was the only event this season I hadn’t competed on so our points haul and current championship lead is a great start. I need to continue that form in Sweden and Portugal. I won’t be going to New Zealand but will then I’ll be out on all of the events for the second half of the year.”

Breen looking to extend World Championship lead in Sweden

Posted: February 9, 2012 11:44 AM

Waterford’s Craig Breen will be looking to extend his lead in the SWRC this weekend as the World Rally Championship heads to Sweden for the second event of the season.

Breen, the winner of the WRC Academy in 2011, has hit the ground running this year winning the SWRC category at the Monte Carlo Rally in January, the first event of the season and his first drive in the Super 2000 car section. That win sees the 22-year-old top the leaderboard but his main rival PG Andresson, who set the pace in Monte Carlo before retiring, will be hoping to gain points on Breen this weekend.

The Motorsport Ireland International Driver of the Year took to the roads of Norway last weekend for the Rally Finnskog where he had the opportunity to experience a snow event, his first in 12 months. Despite retiring following a damaged suspension, Breen was happy with the outing.
“I was still very happy with our speed on snow and the confidence is high as we head to Sweden,” said Breen. “It takes time to bed in to the conditions.”

“We competed on the event last year and finished 15th overall but I won’t be taking anything for granted. Every rally poses its own set of difficulties and Sweden is no different. I also know that PG Andersson, on his home event will be pushing hard and will be the favourite,” Breen went on to say.

Rally Sweden begins on Thursday evening with a Super Special Stage in Karlstad with the event continuing on Friday and Saturday before finishing with a Power Stage in Hagfors on Sunday afternoon. For more information log on to www.wrc.com/swrc/news or www.craigbreen.com

Ford targets six of the best at Scandinavian snowfest

Posted: February 9, 2012 11:22 AM

Ford World Rally Team's Nordic drivers will aim to extend the squad's winning grip at the Swedish Rally (9 - 12 February) next week. The team has won the last five fixtures of the FIA World Rally Championship's only true winter encounter and both Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala and Norway's Petter Solberg have Swedish victories to their names.

Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila claimed their maiden WRC victory at the Karlstad-based rally in 2008 and Solberg, now partnered by Chris Patterson, took the spoils in 2005. The Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car that the two pairings will campaign also has a strong history in Sweden, having mastered the snow and ice to claim a podium clean sweep on its debut last season.

This year's rally spans both Sweden and Norway and temperatures in the barren countryside can plunge towards -30ºC, placing huge demands on man and machine. Keeping the Fiesta RS WRCs at peak performance in such unrelenting cold demands specific engineering solutions, while the only way for mechanics to work outside in such conditions is to pile on layer after layer of clothing.

But for the drivers, a winter wonderland where studded tyres, anti-glare sunglasses and heated driving boots are 'de rigueur', brings great anticipation.

Hundreds of tungsten-tipped steel studs protrude from each of Michelin's winter tyres to bite into the frozen road surface. They provide amazing grip and, paradoxically, Rally Sweden is one of the championship's fastest rounds. Drivers also 'lean' their cars against the solid snow banks that line the forest roads to help guide them around corners.

Latvala, who finished third in 2010 and 2011 to add to his 2008 victory, has his sights set on another podium.
'That's my target. I was happy after the first day of my pre-event test. I concentrated on perfecting the car set-up, and that's now clear in my head. I was a little too aggressive with the settings last year so I've modified them slightly,' he said.

'Driving on snow at such high speed is an incredible feeling. The driving style is more sideways than on gravel, using the throttle to pull the car straight again. It helps provide more lateral grip because when the car is at an angle and leaning, the traction is better.

'On pure ice the studs provide such good grip that the braking points are later than on gravel. That only changes when there is loose snow on the surface, which provides the same effect as driving on a rain-soaked road. The car 'snow-planes' and you must brake sooner,' he added.

Solberg, who claimed a podium on his team debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo last month, has huge experience of the rally, with 12 previous starts to his credit. The 37-year-old has a family home and hotel alongside Friday morning's Mitandersfors speed test, just inside Sweden, and can rely on extra support both there and in his native Norway.

'The farmhouse overlooks the special stage,' he said. 'I can stand at the door and see the road. I think there will be many people and TV crews there so the atmosphere should be great. At least I know the road well! The conditions are looking good for a fast, proper winter event. It's fun to drive in such conditions and as the rally goes into Norway this year, it makes it even more special for me.

'This will be my first loose surface rally in a Fiesta RS WRC. I have only two days of testing in which to get used to it on snow and ice, but I'm not worried. Asphalt was the surface on which I expected difficulties in settling into the car, but I felt comfortable immediately at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Ford has a superb recent record in this rally and Jari-Matti and I want to extend that,' added Solberg.

Rally Sweden ushers in a new qualifying procedure to the WRC. After two hours of free practice on Thursday morning, drivers will tackle one timed run over the same stage. They will then choose their preferred start position for the first leg, with the quickest qualifier having first choice ahead of the next fastest and so on.

'It's a great idea,' said Solberg. 'Every driver has the possibility to earn the start position they want with a good performance in qualifying. It also provides another opportunity for the media to talk about the rally in the build-up to the start.'

Team News

* Regulations limit the team to just one tyre from partner Michelin. The X-Ice North will be equipped with 380 studs to provide maximum 'bite' in the snow and ice. Each stud is 20mm long and 4g in weight. However, just 7mm are exposed, with 13mm inserted into the tyre to provide a strong anchor.

* The Ford squad will complete a four-day test at Kall in northern Sweden tomorrow (Saturday). Latvala drove on Wednesday and Thursday, with Solberg taking the wheel for the final two days.

* Nine privately-entered Fiesta RS WRCs supplement the official cars. Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk and Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet are nominated by M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, which has also entered Michal Solowow / Maciek Baran. Martin Prokop / Zdenek Hrùza are entered by the Czech Ford National Team. Individual entries have been placed by Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin, Norwegian trio Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor, Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson and Eyvind Brynildsen / Cato Menkerud, and Finns Jari Ketomaa / Mika Stenberg.

Rally Route

The major change is a full day in Norway during Friday's opening leg, over roads used during the final running of Rally Norway in 2009. Otherwise the format is familiar, with the event based in Karlstad, the major service park at Hagfors Airport and stages in the Värmland and Dalarna regions of Sweden. After Thursday morning's qualifying test near Hagfors, the rally begins with a super special stage at Karlstad's trotting track that evening. The opening leg is the longest and includes six stages in Norway, as well as a test that starts in Sweden before crossing the border to finish in Norway. A remote service will be held in the Norwegian town of Kongsvinger. The final two days are based in the Dalarna region near Hagfors, almost all on roads used last year. The final 4.66km Hagfors Power Stage will offer bonus points for the fastest three drivers. The finish is in Karlstad's main square on Sunday afternoon, after 24 stages covering 349.16km in a route of 1842.60km.

M-SPORT AIM TO CONTINUE SUCCESSES IN SWEDEN

Posted: February 9, 2012 11:19 AM

Following an impressive debut for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team at the WRC's curtain-raiser in Monte-Carlo last month, the Cumbrian-based team will be looking to continue their recent good form as the Championship heads to Sweden for the second round of the season next week. Ford have an impressive history in Sweden and the M-Sport crews will be looking to build on the successes of last year - when the Ford Fiesta RS WRC claimed a podium clean-sweep in its inaugural rally - to establish themselves as one of the Championship's regular points scorers.

Based around the Swedish town of Karlstad and covering more than 350 competitive kilometres, the 60th Rally Sweden forms the only snow rally on the 2012 calendar. This year's edition will see the event span two countries as the crews cross the border into Norway and with two of the Championship's most celebrated youngsters - Ott Tänak and Evgeny Novikov - returning as nominated drivers, the M-Sport team will be looking for a strong haul of points to maintain their current third place in the manufacturers Championship. Elsewhere, joining the M-Sport squad as a guest driver, Michal Solowow makes a welcome return to the WRC on this the Pole's 11th WRC start.

It is said that all good drivers can be quick, but that it takes an intelligent and intuitive one to know when to rein in their speed. In a composed return to the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Tänak proved just that with a mature drive beyond his 24 years on what was only his third outing in the WRC car and his first ever experience of the notoriously challenging stages of Rallye Monte-Carlo last month.

Having contested Rally Sweden on only one previous occasion, the Estonian returns to winter conditions alongside regular co-driver Kuldar Sikk. Eager to prove himself as one of the WRC's brightest young talents, Tänak will be looking to demonstrate his ability on all surfaces.

Rally Sweden will also present a revised livery for Tänak as the Estonian looks to support the Make Roads Safe campaign coordinated by the FIA Foundation. Launched in 2006, the campaign calls on the international community to take urgent action to stop the daily tragedy of thousands of preventable deaths and injuries on the world's roads. During the foundation's 'Decade of Action', campaigners will work to ensure that politicians, global institutions, vehicle manufacturers and transport planners put road safety first and M-Sport are delighted to show their support in promoting the initiative.

Evgeny Novikov put in the performance of his career at the season opener in Monte-Carlo last month. On what was his first experience of the challenging roads around the Principality, the Russian set regular top-three times to secure a career best fifth place overall.

Despite contesting Rally Norway in 2009, this will be Novikov's first experience of the Swedish stages, and with no pre-event testing, the 21 year-old will have to harness all of his talent and composure. Yet considering his incredible performance last month, and with experienced co-driver Denis Giraudet in the navigator's seat, the young Russian will be eager to replicate his earlier success with another strong finish.

Joining the M-Sport team as a guest driver, Michal Solowow will be relishing the opportunity to get back behind the wheel of a WRC car. Having claimed both the Polish and Central European S2000 championships last year, the Pole will be keen to prove his potential as he makes a welcome return to the world stage.

Having contested Rally Sweden on a number of previous occasions, and with a one day test planned in preparation, Solowow will be well placed as the WRC heads to the region of Värmland next week. Utilising his experience of the stages and conditions, the S2000 driver will be looking to triumph at an event where driving style and confidence behind the wheel are key.

Ott Tänak said:
'The feeling ahead of next weekend is good. At the moment I think it is about -30 ['C] so we should have some really good conditions to show what we can do. I've only competed in Sweden once before in 2010, but when the conditions are right, the roads are very nice to drive.

'We'll have a one day test at the weekend where I can work on getting the feeling and flow of winter driving. This will be my first time on snow for a while and for sure it takes a while to get fully comfortable with the conditions. We'll look to work on getting a good knowledge of the tyres and getting a good set-up for the rally.

'We should be more comfortable here than we were in Monte-Carlo so it should be easier for us. For sure there are a lot of quick drivers on snow out there so we'll have to judge where our pace is once the rally starts. But we'll do our best and drive as best we can.

'It's important for us to finish so first we need to understand where our pace is. If it's competitive, then for sure we can try and push.'

Evgeny Novikov said:
'I'm really looking forward to Rally Sweden. I know the weather is very good at the moment ' very cold conditions and lots of snow which will make the stages really good to drive.

'I did Rally Norway in 2009, but I've never competed in Sweden so these stages are completely new to me. I really enjoy the challenge of driving on snow, but I've only driven a snow rally in a WRC car once before!

'We won't be doing any testing before the rally so it is important for me to get the right feeling in the car and understand the new tyres straight away.

'I'm aiming for the top five again, but for sure it won't be easy. This is a very difficult rally and there are a lot of very quick drivers, but we'll work hard to do our very best.'

Michal Solowow said:
'It's a great pleasure to work with Malcolm [Wilson] and the M-Sport team again. I know this rally quite well and I like coming back to these stages. In 2006 we started in a Subaru Impreza WRC which is totally different to the WRC cars of today that are much more similar to the S2000.

'We've done 25 rallies in a [Ford] Fiesta S2000, and I have also competed in a Fiesta RRC, so I feel pretty confident with the car. I hope the same will be said for the Fiesta WRC.

'I feel great in the Fiesta S2000. It is perfectly balanced and the suspension is excellent. Every driver expects to be provided with more power and traction in a WRC car, but I can admit that the Fiesta is the best rally car I have driven so far; never failing over 25 events!

'We'll do some pre-event testing on the Monday just before the rally where we'll see how the car handles and get familiar with the team. We plan to drive about 100 km which should be good preparation for the rally.

'I'm expecting a really good fight, though I realise we don't have the same level of experience in the WRC car as some of the other competitors. It's hard to predict how our pace will compare. We will be competing with top drivers, on the hardest stages in the world and in very demanding conditions. At least 20 competitors have a chance of finishing in the top 3 and a large proportion of them will be looking for the victory.

'We understand the challenge ahead so we will try to do our best and enjoy each stage in the WRC car right up to the finish in Karlstad.'

ANKLE INJURY SEES WILSON OUT FOR SWEDEN

Posted: February 9, 2012 11:00 AM

It is with great sadness that the Go Fast Energy World Rally Team can confirm that Matthew Wilson injured his ankle during training earlier today and that he and co-driver Scott Martin will consequentially miss the second round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) in Sweden next week.

It was during one of Wilson's regular training sessions - fell running around the English Lake District - that the British driver took an awkward fall. Having been rushed to hospital, Wilson is currently being assessed by doctors but early indications would suggest that the 25 year-old has broken his left ankle.

Wilson and Martin were due to complete 100km of testing in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC ahead of the 60th Rally Sweden early next week. Looking forward to getting their 2012 season off to a competitive start, the British duo was eager to push for a good result on the more familiar Scandinavian stages.

Fresh from their 2nd place at Rally Finnskog, sole representation for the Go Fast Energy World Rally Team now falls to Henning Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor as the pairing embark on the Norwegian's home event.

Matthew Wilson said:
"It looks as though I've broken and dislocated my left ankle so, unfortunately, that means no Rally Sweden for me. I was really looking forward to Sweden. We were a lot more prepared for this rally [than we had been for Rallye Monte-Carlo] and we would have been looking for a good result. I'm absolutely gutted."

PROTON: Rally Sweden preview

Posted: February 9, 2012 10:46 AM

Winning the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is about beating the best in 40-plus degrees Celsius on some of the hottest rallies the planet has to offer. This week, PROTON’s Satria-Neo S2000 faces the opposite end of the temperature range as it ventures north, way north, to Scandinavia – a place 70-odd degrees colder than the scene of the Malaysian team’s historic 2011 successes.

This week is all about the second round of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, Rally Sweden (starting on Thursday February 9). After dominating the opening round of the series on last month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, local hero P-G Andersson starts his home event with high hopes of another commanding performance. And Andersson’s preparations in the Satria-Neo S2000 couldn’t have gone better, with a Super 2000 victory on the KNA Rally Finnskog in Norway yesterday.

Scotsman Alister McRae joins Andersson in Sweden to make his debut in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship. McRae is, of course, no stranger to the WRC, having competed at the sport’s highest level for six years. This week’s Rally Sweden will be his 76th WRC start. McRae is no stranger to success, either. He arrives at the Karlstad start of the rally as the reigning FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion.

Despite his stunning S2000 victory and fourth place overall on KNA Rally Finnskog, Andersson is keen to further refine the Satria-Neo S2000 at the team’s test tomorrow. According to the two-time Junior World Rally Championship, the car is almost perfect; tomorrow he’ll make it perfect for the Thursday night start of Rally Sweden. Andersson is only too well aware of the need for a fast start, 12 months ago, he led the WRC’s only winter rally outright after the opening test.

Competing on Rally Sweden is unlike any other event in the World Rally Championship. Unique in the WRC calendar, the cars run on specially made winter tyres, fitted with 380 studs. Each one of those studs is 20mm long, but just seven millimetres sticks out of the tyre to claw at the rock-hard ice and snow surface. The result is phenomenal grip, allowing the drivers to brake later than they would on gravel roads. The sight and sound of the Satria-Neo S2000 being balanced on an icy knife-edge of top-gear grip is sure to be one of the highlights of the season.

The event gets underway at a ceremonial start in the centre of Karlstad on Thursday (February 9) at 1900. The crews will then face a day of competition in Norway (Friday February 10), with service in Kongsvinger before heading back into Sweden for a weekend of action based around Hagfors. The event finishes back in Karlstad after 24 high-speed stages on Sunday (February 12) at 1616.

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:
“I had a good idea of what I wanted from the car before we started Rally Finnskog yesterday, but we still made some really small changes to the car through the day. It’s almost perfect now. We still need to do some suspension work for the rougher sections; the roads in Norway didn’t get too cut-up, but we should be able to do those changes at the test tomorrow. By the time we get to the start, I’m sure the car will be exactly as we want it. Yesterday’s rally was fantastic. The temperature was -32 or something like that, but the sun came out and the roads were incredible. Yesterday was what rallying is all about: full sideways and flat-out. I’m really looking forward to the start of Rally Sweden, where, of course, we are aiming for the SWRC win. I hear there might be some snow coming on the weekend; I would like that, I prefer it when the conditions get a bit more tricky. But, for sure, fourth in Finnskog yesterday was the perfect start for the Satria on snow.”

Alister McRae said:
“When the conditions are right on this event, Rally Sweden is the best in the world, no question. When you are flat in top and leaning the car on the solid snow banks, coming out of the corner a gear higher than you thought possible, it’s the best feeling in rallying. And I’ve missed it for the last eight years – so I can’t tell you how glad I am to be back. It’s fantastic. P-G’s result yesterday, along with the pace the team showed in Monte Carlo and the multiple championships we won last year have all lifted PROTON Motorsports to another level. Living in Western Australia, we don’t get to see much snow, so it’s going to take me a while to back into driving on the stuff. Fortunately, my car set-up is pretty similar to P-G’s – we saw that when we competed together on Rally Scotland last year – so I should be able to start tomorrow’s test with his base set-up on the Satria-Neo. We start every event looking for the win and this is no different, but being realistic, I think P-G’s PROTON is going to be the one more likely to be the fighting at the front, certainly at the start of the rally. P-G showed last year that he is extremely quick in these conditions – so we’ll just follow him!”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Given that the Satria-Neo S2000 had never competed in conditions anything like the -32 degrees we endured in Norway, it’s fair to say we didn’t know too much about what to expect. But the car was perfect. The only change we made to the car was to fit a stronger heater in the car to make sure we could keep the windscreen clear – oh, and we chucked some warmer jackets in the back for the boys. Otherwise, this was the car which won in Malaysia when it was 70 degrees hotter; pretty versatile this Satria-Neo! Alister and P-G will be testing again tomorrow, but we’re down to fine-tuning the car for Rally Sweden now.”

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