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Sweden - 11-14 Feb 16

Posted: March 10, 2016 9:48 AM - 5805 Hits

Round 2 - 2016 World Rally Championship

Abu Dhabi Total WRT enjoys a final flourish at Rally Sweden

Posted: March 10, 2016 9:48 AM

Featuring just the one stage, day three of Rally Sweden was over in a flash. Confirming their impressive speed, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle finished in the top three on the Power Stage. Craig Breen/Scott Martin held onto eighth place overall, whilst Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson also made it to the end of the rally.

Like on the opening two days, the Rally Sweden organisers were forced to adjust the course to take account of snow cover on the roads. Sunday's leg was therefore limited to the 15.87km-long Varmulls.sen Power Stage.

The second driver to set off, Kris Meeke went faster than Jari-Matti Latvala. The Northern Irishman held onto the lead as many drivers down the running order completed, including Thierry Neuville, who came within three thousandths of the second of beating his time. However, with the racing line becoming increasingly clean, Andreas Mikkelsen and then Sebastien Ogier moved ahead of Kris, who therefore ended third on the rally's final stage.

Craig Breen was tenth fastest on the Power Stage, thus securing eighth place in the overall standings. Khalid Al Qassimi also made it to the end of the rally, finishing in 19th place.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Craig Breen (#15): "I have really enjoyed driving this car. Sometimes, it felt like I was driving in a video game! Getting to the end was the main aim so I'm glad to have made it here and I've got some very good experience. I also scored my first points in the WRC, which is an important milestone. I couldn't have hoped for a better weekend; thank you to everyone that has given me this fantastic opportunity!"

Khalid Al-Qassimi (#14): "I struggled to find the right rhythm this morning, I backed off too much. Overall, I'm pleased to have made it to the end of such a difficult rally. The performance level of the team was good; this was especially true of Kris, who could have challenged for the win if he had not had such bad luck again. Craig also did a very good job on his first rally with Abu Dhabi Total WRT, which is very encouraging for the future."

Kris Meeke (#7): "I drove well on the Power Stage, even though I was a bit hesitant in places. Once again, the conditions had changed so much since recce! It was no surprise that the guys behind me went quicker, because my starting position wasn't ideal on this stage. For me it's been a rally of what could have been, but the speed was there. Victory was on the cards. Despite the weather in the lead-up to the rally, in the end, we were able to drive in typically wintry conditions and that can only be beneficial for us at next year's event."

Third crown in Sweden: Ogier/Ingrassia win with Volkswagen

Posted: March 10, 2016 9:42 AM

Four wins in a row at the only winter rally in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC): Volkswagen won the Rally Sweden through Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and remains unbeaten on ice and snow with the Polo R WRC. For Ogier and Ingrassia, this latest victory was the third success in four years at this classic rally and their 34th in total. The road to victory demanded a herculean effort from the three-time world champions, for which Volkswagen was rewarded with its eleventh win in a row and 36th triumph in 41 rallies. Among those on-site to watch the latest success was Dr. Frank Welsch, Board Member for Development. The duo overcame the challenge of opening the route on roads covered with a layer of fresh snow, and thus having to sweep the road clear for the following cars, with one of the best displays of driving and navigating in recent years. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (N/N) ended their home race in fourth place. In contrast, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila had to abandon any hope of a fourth victory at the Rally Sweden on Friday, when they suffered a broken drive shaft.

Winter arrives right on schedule - #WinterThunderland in Sweden

Temperatures above zero and persistent rain before the rally, heavy snowfall and frost during it: the competitors at the 2016 Rally Sweden had to battle changing and difficult conditions. During the Recce on Wednesday and Thursday, the special stages were dominated by soft loamy ground and mud. Once the rally started, and the cars hit full speed, they were faced with ice and fresh snow. Thanks to the huge commitment shown by the organiser and the many volunteers who worked tirelessly overnight to prepare the route, 68.37 per cent of the timed kilometres originally scheduled were completed. Full points are awarded if more than half of the route is completed.

Herculean task for Ogier and Mikkelsen, who opened 93 per cent of the route

The onset of winter at exactly the right time presented Volkswagen duos Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger with a truly herculean task. After the new, reduced schedule, they were forced to open the route for 93 per cent of the rally. As such, they had no choice but to sweep the loose layer of snow from the stages for those behind them - particularly on Saturday - resulting in more grip with every World Rally Car that passed, and consequently allowing faster times. For Ogier/Ingrassia and Mikkelsen/Jaeger, this meant flat-out at all times in order to challenge for victory and places on the podium. Ogier/Ingrassia were rewarded for their willingness to take risks. Mikkelsen/Jaeger, on the other hand, left their home rally without a podium finish: small mistakes and off-road excursions cost valuable time and ultimately made the difference between victory and fourth place.

Eventful weekend for Latvala/Anttila

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila suffered a number of set-backs. They were hampered by a broken drive shaft as early as the first special stage of the rally, "Torsby". Handicapped by having to drive solely with rear-wheel drive, they battled their way through the Friday before eventually having to call time on the final stage of the opening day with a broken suspension. Day two began with a puncture. Only then were Latvala/Anttila able to show the potential that had produced three victories at the Rally Sweden in the past. They won three of the four special stages on Saturday, clocking the second fastest time on the remaining stage.

Three plus two: Power Stage points for Ogier/Ingrassia and Mikkelsen/Jaeger

Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger not only added another chapter to Volkswagen's success story in the World Rally Championship, but also continued the manufacturer's remarkable record on the Power Stage, on which bonus points are up for grabs for the three fastest duos. The fastest time on the closing stage of the rally went to Ogier/Ingrassia for the 27th time in their career, and to Volkswagen for the 33rd time in 40 rallies. Mikkelsen/Jaeger finished second to round off the success.

Three full years at the top of the World Rally Championship

On top of the Driver and Co-Driver Championship continuously since 10 February 2013: the Volkswagen drivers. Back then, Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia moved to the top of the world championship courtesy of the Polo R WRC's first victory in its rookie year. Since then, they have only surrendered top spot once - to team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila. Victory at the 2016 Rally Sweden saw the reigning champions pull further clear of their team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger, who are currently second in the World Championship. Their lead after two rallies is now 23 points. Victory is rewarded with 25 points, with a maximum three more points available for winning the Power Stage. Volkswagen's lead over Hyundai in the Manufacturers World Championship is now five points.

Impressive winning run: eleven victories in a row

Following the latest triumph at the Rally Sweden, Volkswagen can look back on another impressive winning run. Eleven triumphs in a row marks the second longest series of victories in the history of the World Rally Championship - the longest run, of twelve wins, also belongs to Volkswagen. Ogier, Latvala, Mikkelsen and the Polo R WRC are undefeated since the 2015 Rally Portugal. As such, Volkswagen has the opportunity to equal its own record at the coming Rally Mexico.

Quotes after day three of the Rally Sweden

Sebastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
"Winning in Sweden again is an incredible feeling. I just love this rally. The conditions were far from ideal at the start of the week after the thawing and all the rain, which makes it all the more pleasing that we eventually had a really good, wintery Rally Sweden. Yesterday, we probably had to take the greatest risk of our career in order to win. It paid off, and I am just really happy."

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
"Naturally, my second home rally, the Rally Sweden, didn't go at all according to plan. It is always a bitter pill to swallow when a competition is over so early from a sporting perspective. However, it is also important to reflect on the positive aspects of the weekend. The car felt fantastic, we were totally competitive and we proved that with best times on some stages. Unfortunately, I had to take to the track first on the closing power stage, which meant that I wasn't really in with a chance of picking up any points. We have a good starting position for the next event in Mexico, and we have to make use of it. Hopefully the conditions will be on our side, and I wouldn't be averse to a little more luck than in the first two events of the season."

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
"Naturally, fourth place is not what we were aiming for at the Rally Sweden. We definitely wanted to be fighting for the win. However, to achieve this, we had to drive on full attack right from the start - and ultimately made too many mistakes. Naturally, we will learn from this for the future. I gave it my all once again on the power stage today and picked up two bonus points. On balance we made the best of the situation."

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
"To win the Rally Sweden four times is a fantastic effort from the entire team, but particularly from Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. With the very special conditions created by the weather, winning this rally took a will to attack and a flawless display in equal measures. I take my hat off to them. The fact that going at full throttle 100 percent doesn't necessarily guarantee success was demonstrated by Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jaeger. Like their team-mates they gave it their all, but minor errors made the difference between victory and fourth place. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila missed out on fighting for the win early on, but despite the setbacks at the start, they delivered a good performance. We are definitely pleased with the performances of our drivers and the entire team."

And then there was ...

... a true rally sprint. The warm weather in Sweden and the persistent thawing ahead of the second WRC event of the year forced the organisers to cancel nine of the 21 special stages. This reduced the distance of the classified kilometres to 226.48 km - making the 2016 Rally Sweden the shortest WRC rally of all time. Before this, the 2015 Rally France at 245.35, the 2007 Rally Argentina at 248.90 and the 2011 Rally Jordan at 259.56 timed kilometres were the shortest competitions in WRC history.

Best Winter Finish As DMACK Nets Top Five In Sweden

Posted: March 10, 2016 9:41 AM

DMACK posted its best-ever finish on snow, and its best overall result in three years, after another top performance from DMACK World Rally Team's Ott Tanak and Raigo Molder on the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at Rally Sweden this weekend.

Estonian Tanak finished fifth overall, helping DMACK to consolidate its fifth position in the battle for the WRC manufacturers' championship, and ensuring the tyre manufacturer finished second only to Michelin on the dramatic event.

Rally Sweden is the only winter round of the world championship and competitors used DMACK's specialised, rally-winning DMG-ICE tyre. With a unique V-style tread pattern and 384 metal pins, it's perfectly designed for frozen conditions and took a dominant 1-2 in WRC 2 last year.

It's one of DMACK's most advanced products with a huge number of technical variables, including stud length, drilling method and glue type, all determining the final performance outcome.

However, this week's edition was the toughest in recent years due to the absence of snow and ice. Concerns that the gravel roads would rip the metal studs from tyres and create a safety risk caused rally organisers to cancel nine of the 21 stages, mainly from Saturday and Sunday's itinerary.

Even with the challenging conditions and lack of winter weather, DMACK's ice tyre performed exceptionally well - delivering a high level of stud retention to help Tanak challenge for stage wins and score a top-five result. He was narrowly pipped to a stage victory on the tricky second pass through the R?jden test on Friday, being edged out by just 1.3 seconds.

In addition to Tanak securing his best result of the season so far at the wheel of his M-Sport-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC, it was also the first event for the two-car Drive DMACK Trophy Team in the support WRC 2 series.

Norwegians Marius Aasen and Veronica Engan, current Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy champions, kicked off their huge prize drive season with eighth place in their Fiesta R5. Team-mates Sander Parn and James Morgan were less fortunate, retiring with an overheating engine on the opening day. They rejoined the event but slid off the road just metres from the finish line today.

While this year's Rally Sweden moved south to the city of Karlstad, the special stages were held much further north. Friday featured two loops of stages, which stretched across the border to Norway and were generally well coated with snow.

However, Saturday and Sunday stages were very different with much more gravel making conditions pretty extreme.

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:
"The talk this weekend was all about the extreme conditions and how tyres would cope with the lack of snow and ice. However, our winter tyre has benefitted from a number of developments this year and was really competitive in the proper winter conditions on Friday. It also coped remarkably well in the worst of the gravel with virtually no loss of studs."

Ott Tanak said:
"It's another strong result for us on what was a very hard rally. I really enjoyed Friday a lot, the conditions were good and we were able to push for top times and a podium position. Saturday was more difficult and the stages were so fast that it was important to be careful. Again we didn't make any mistakes so overall it's been a strong start to the championship for us."

Masterful Ogier wins in Sweden

Posted: February 29, 2016 5:36 AM

Sebastian Ogier led from start to finish to secure his third Rally Sweden victory on Sunday and preserve his maximum points start to the 2016 Fia World Rally Championship.

The reigning world champion drove his Volkswagen Polo R to a 29.8sec success in the Karlstad-based snow and ice rally to add to his 2013 and 2015 triumphs.

Ogier also claimed full bonus points for winning the final Power Stage and after two of the 14 rounds the Frenchman has maximum championship points.

A big thaw before the start threatened the season's only pure winter rally as the frozen gravel roads turned to mud. By the time the cold weather returned, nine of the 21 speed tests in Sweden and Norway had been axed, but up to 10cm of snow and temperatures as low as -10C ensured the event went ahead.

Ogier's dominance was challenged during Saturday's second leg when he had to sweep fresh snow from the roads to create a cleaner line for those behind. His half-minute lead was slashed to less than 10sec by Hayden Paddon before he reasserted his authority.

"Two wins from the first two rallies - it can't get any better. Yesterday was a little bit too crazy and I took risks like I had never done in my life,"said Ogier, who survived a massive sixth gear slide. A holed radiator gave Paddon cause for concern after the Power Stage

"Conditions were terrible at the beginning of the week but the organisers did an impressive job so that we had a good rally."

New Zealand's Paddon matched his career-best result on his debut in Hyundai's new i20 and became the first non-European driver to finish on the Sweden podium.

He survived a late scare after hitting a wooden post metres from the finish of the last stage.

The impact damaged the radiator and Paddon and co-driver John Kennard filled a small hole to stem a fluid leak before driving cautiously on the 85km liaison section to the finish.

Mads Ostberg completed the podium in a Ford Fiesta RS, 25.8sec behind Paddon and 15.2sec ahead of fellow Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen ran as high as second but a time-consuming spin on Saturday ended his podium hopes.

Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo completed the top six in a Fiesta RS and i20 respectively, a front left puncture ending the latter's top three challenge. Henning Solberg and Craig Breen, driving Citroen's DS 3 for the first time, were next up with WRC 2 winner Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen completing the leaderboard.

Jari-Matti Latvala (driveshaft), Thierry Neuville (transmission) and Kris Meeke (suspension) all finished down the order after opening day problems.

The championship heads to gravel for the first time next month when Leon hosts Rally Guanajuato Mexico (3 - 6 March).

EVANS/PARRY WIN WRC2 IN SWEDEN

Posted: February 29, 2016 5:34 AM

M-Sport World Rally Team's Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry have claimed another win in the FIA World Rally Championship's principle support series - securing victory behind the wheel of their new-evolution Ford Fiesta R5 at this weekend's Rally Sweden.

Following on from a dominant performance at last month's Rallye Monte-Carlo, M-Sport came to Sweden for a repeat performance.

Given the strong level of competition, victory would be hard-fought, but Evans controlled the event from start to finish - claiming victory over a number of drivers who are considered specialists on the region's unique stages.

Pushing when confident, he was able to establish a good lead that allowed him to back off the pace and consolidate his position through the event's closing stages.

Never fazed and fully under control, this has been one of the Welshman's most impressive performances to date - demonstrating the capacity to manage his event amidst some very strong competition.

In the second M-Sport Fiesta R5 Evo, Eyvind Brynildsen suffered some set-up issues over the course of the weekend but he and co-driver Anders Fredriksson climbed the timesheets to finish the event in a creditable fifth place.

The pairing also secured the coveted Colin's Crest Award - launching their Fiesta R5 Evo a huge 45 metres through the air. Eclipsing all of the world rally car entrants and securing a new Rally Sweden record, their performance highlighted the strength of the new Ecoboost engine.

This weekend also saw some strong performances from a number of privately entered Fiesta R5 Evos. Fredrik Ahlin posted a stage win and led the event on Friday whilst Anders GrOndal battled illness only to be beaten to the final podium position by Esapekka Lappi on the last stage.

In total, six new-evolution Fiesta R5s finished inside the WRC 2 top-ten - proving the speed, strength and reliability of M-Sport's latest upgrades.

QUOTE, END QUOTE

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
"Coming to Sweden, we knew that we had a chance of victory but we also knew that it would be a big challenge - which it was! To have done what we came here to do is fantastic and we're all really pleased with the result.

"We had a big battle with Fredrik [Ahlin] and Pontus [Tidemand] on the first day but we managed to get the measure of them and then controlled the rally from there. We pushed hard when we needed to and took care with some issues once we had established a good lead on Saturday.

"This has been a great event for us and it was good to see that we were able to control the pace and come out on top."

Eyvind Brynildsen (5th) said:
"Everything was working really well today. We had a good run through the Power Stage and I think we proved that we have the speed. Unfortunately this weekend wasn't for us, but we're more motivated than ever and we'll come back fighting even harder!

"It was also really nice to get the record on Colin's Crest yesterday - and it only took me 45 metres to gain a lot of new friends on social media! That will be a really special memory for me and I hope we did Colin proud."

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"We came here to win. We knew it would be difficult given the high level of competition, but the combination of Elfyn and the new-evolution Fiesta R5 has provided us with a fantastic victory this weekend.

"I had said that Rallye Monte-Carlo was his best ever drive, but I think he might have surpassed that here. He controlled the event from start to finish and out-performed a number of crews who are specialists on these unique stages.

"It was also great to see Eyvind secure the record on Colin's Crest - something I don't think many thought was possible with an R5 car - and to see so many privately entered Fiestas performing so well.

"With six Fiesta R5 Evos in the top-ten, we have proven how competitive our package is and I'm looking forward to more close battles over the course of the season."

OSTBERG SECURES SWEDEN PODIUM

Posted: February 29, 2016 5:34 AM

M-Sport World Rally Team's Mads Ostberg has secured yet another podium at Rally Sweden - he and compatriot co-driver Ola FlOene bringing their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC home in third place.

Milder temperatures meant that the snow specialists didn't have their usual advantage this weekend, but that didn't stand in the way of Ostberg who was also experiencing the power and performance of his new 2016-specification Fiesta for the first time on loose-surface terrain.

Proving the extent to which he has progressed as a driver, the Norwegian adopted an intelligent strategy. Attacking the unfamiliar conditions with an air of caution through the opening speed tests, he and FlOene stayed well clear of trouble - ready to strengthen their position as their confidence grew.

Gaining assurance with each new kilometre, the Norwegians soon came into their own - setting a number of competitive stage times to consolidate a thoroughly deserved third place and allow Ostberg's run of Rally Sweden podiums to continue unbroken with the Fiesta.

Having to adapt to a new team, co-driver, pacenote system and car, the Norwegian has had to acclimatise to a number of different factors but his progression has proved extremely encouraging.

Thanks to strong results at both Rallye Monte-Carlo and this weekend's Rally Sweden, he and FlOene now hold third place in the drivers' and co-drivers' FIA World Rally Championship.

Away from the top flight there was further success for a number of M-Sport supported drivers.

Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry claimed their second successive victory in the WRC 2 category as their Ford Fiesta R5 Evo fought off competition from a number of Scandinavians.

Also, Daniel Rojsel and Nicklas Edvardsson brought their one-litre Ecoboost Ford Fiesta R2 home to the RC4 class victory - finishing some 15 minutes ahead of the WRC 3 winner.

QUOTE, END QUOTE

Mads Ostberg (3rd) said:
"It's great to have finished on the podium here in Sweden - especially as I hoped my winter rally experience would give me a little advantage but I think it's fair to say that probably wasn't the case this weekend!

Everything is getting better and better and I think that we produced a good performance. It wasn't the best of starts, but since then we increased our speed quite a lot. We pushed when we needed to and controlled the pace when necessary and in the end it was actually quite a comfortable third place.

"The relationship with Ola has been really good. We were actually saying that it feels as though we have been working together for years so that is a big positive and I think that everyone in the team is now really motivated ahead of Rally Mexico.

"This was very an important result for all of us and I have to thank the team for what has been a perfect car all weekend. Hopefully we can continue this level of progression and enjoy a lot more events like this in the future."

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"It was great to see Mads back on the podium. He and Ola have worked extremely hard and I am pleased to see how well their partnership is developing.

"They took an intelligent approach to this event. Knowing that their winter-rally experience would provide little advantage, they tackled the unknown with a level of caution and built their speed throughout the weekend. This was a fantastic result for them, and for the team, and I can see that everyone is really hungry for more!

"We also saw some brilliant performances from other Fiesta drivers further down the field. Of course Elfyn and Craig delivered another fantastic win in WRC 2, but it was also great to see the likes of Daniel Rojsel performing so strongly. This is Daniel's home event and he has driven a faultless rally to take a commanding victory in the RC4 class."

PIRELLI CLINCHES WRC3 ON RALLY SWEDEN

Posted: February 29, 2016 5:32 AM

Pirelli has clinched the WRC3 category with young Frenchman Michel Fabre, on a Rally Sweden that overcame threats of cancellation due to unusually warm weather.

In order to preserve the route, only 12 of the planned 21 stages were run, and drivers received an extra allocation of tyres as the gravel coming through the road made it inevitable that there would be damage to the tungsten-tipped studs.

However, such is the strength of Pirelli's patented process of locking the 384 studs per tyre in place during vulcanisation, that stud loss was not so much of an issue for the Pirelli runners as it was for some other competitors.

Pirelli's brand new Sottozero Ice 1 was making its debut in Sweden, with a number of improvements to the design aimed to help retain the studs and evacuate snow and ice more efficiently.

Fabre, making his WRC3 debut this year, claimed his first victory in the category with Pirelli, having made excellent use of the snow tyres to find traction and grip in some of the most challenging conditions seen since 1990, when the Swedish round of the World Rally Championship was actually cancelled due to warm weather. Driving a Citroen DS3 R3T, Fabre collected vital experience of a unique surface and now moves into the provisional lead of the WRC3 series.

In WRC2 - the feeder series to the main WRC1 category - local man Fredrik Ahlin led after the opening leg in a privately-entered Ford Fiesta R5 equipped with Sottozero tyres, springing a surprise by beating the factory-backed cars from Ford and Skoda. Pirelli driver Anders Grondal eventually finished just off the WRC2 podium in another Ford Fiesta R5: an excellent result for the Norwegian, whose main focus this year is his domestic championship rather than the WRC.

The only WRC1 car equipped by Pirelli was the Ford Fiesta RS WRC of Lorenzo Bertelli, who withdrew from the event on day two. Only one type of tyre was run in Sweden for all classes of car: the Sottozero Ice 1, with a seven-millimetre stud.

Pirelli's rally activity manager Terenzio Testoni commented:
"This was one of the most complicated and challenging rallies we have experienced in terms of the weather, and our compliments to the organisers who spared no efforts to reschedule the itinerary and fix as many of the stages as they could so that we could at least have a rally. Under these circumstances, it was hard for any of the drivers to extract the full potential from the Sottozero Ice 1. However, as the rally went on and more snow fell, there was more performance to be had. Fredrik Ahlin in particular demonstrated his capabilities in WRC2."

Also this weekend, a quite different competition is taking place using Sottozero tyres. Four Audi A4 Avants are competing in a new 24-hour regularity event, the '20quattro ore delle Alpi', in which the crews will visit the major ski resorts of northern Italy and Switzerland via some of the challenging mountain roads in Europe. The tyres used are Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3: direct descendants of the Sottozero competition tyres, using the same technology, which are chosen by the world's most prestigious car manufacturers as original equipment.

Pirelli's next World Rally Championship event will be Rally Mexico from March 3-6, when the series moves onto gravel for the first time this year.

Craig Breen impresses in Sweden

Posted: February 29, 2016 5:31 AM

Contesting their first rally with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, Craig Breen and his co-driver Scott Martin produced a solid performance on the frozen roads of Rally Sweden. With recce reorganised and the shakedown and eight stages cancelled, the Rally Sweden schedule was radically changed at the start of the week. In fact, the weather conditions were so mild for February that there was prolonged uncertainty as to whether or not the event would actually go ahead!

After the Thursday evening's ceremonial start confirmed the undiminished enthusiasm of the Scandinavian crowds, the competitors left parc ferme on Friday morning for a leg featuring six stages, contested in Norway and in the Swedish province of Varmland. Embracing his status as the Abu Dhabi Total WRT lead driver, Kris Meeke wasted little time in getting among the leaders. As Kris went quickest on Svullyra, Craig produced an impressive performance with the third fastest time. A spin on the next test, the he continued to take the fight to local hero Henning Solberg. Craig made it back to parc ferme at Karlstad in eighth position, less than two seconds behind his rival saying
"The conditions were better than we had been expecting, especially this morning. The afternoon loop was more complicated with all this snow. It's pretty incredible to say that there was too much, when we have been waiting for it to fall all week! I won't forget the feeling at the end of SS7 in a hurry! I couldn't believe it when I was told that I had just set the third fastest time. It's been a fantastic opening day with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, even though I made a couple of minor mistakes on the last two stages. In total, I must have lost about thirty seconds but I couldn't be happier this evening. Tomorrow, my goal will be to keep learning and improving."

Overnight snowfall made for good conditions on day two of Rally Sweden, providing the Abu Dhabi Total WRT crews with an opportunity to showcase their skills. After a highly consistent performance on day one, Craig continued to learn about rallying at this level with a series of top-ten times. Despite having to cope with the rapid deterioration of his studded tyres throughout the afternoon, he managed to stay within two seconds of the experienced Solberg before the super special stage that evening. The gap slipped to 3.6sec after the day's final test, when Craig was forced to put his spare wheel back on - which had lost its studs earlier in the day. The conditions were different to the previous day but Craig felt he was able to manage them.

With just one stage to run on Sunday only 15.87km was all that stood between Craig and him completing his first event with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT. Taking no risks he arrived at the stop line relieved and sealing his eight spot on the leader board.
To keep up to date visit www.craigbreen.com or www.citroenracing.com

Results

Posted: February 29, 2016 5:30 AM

01. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, 1h 59m 47.4s
02. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 29.8s
03. Mads Ostberg/Ola FlOene (N/N), Ford, + 55.6s
04. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 1m 10.8s
05. Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder (EST/EST), Ford, + 1m 50.7s
06. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (E/E), Hyundai, + 2m 24.0s
07. Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor (N/A), Ford, + 2m 40.0s
08. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citro?n, + 2m 44.6s
09. Elfyn Evans/Craig Parry (GB/GB), Ford, + 5m 17.0s
10. Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (S/S), ?koda, + 5m 31.7s

One 1 stage on Sunday

Posted: February 12, 2016 6:03 PM

On Sunday, only SS21 Varmullsasen will be run (Power Stage)
A new Itinerary will be published during Saturday.

Revised Itinerary - Irish/UK Time

Posted: February 10, 2016 9:24 AM

PIRELLI INTRODUCES NEW SOTTOZERO ICE 1 TYRE FOR SWEDEN

Posted: February 9, 2016 8:30 AM

Sweden is one of the most specialised events on the world rally calendar, calling for the ultimate in grip and traction over surfaces that are often too slippery to stand up on. On this year's event, Pirelli introduces a new tyre: the Sottozero Ice 1.

Compared to the previous Sottozero Ice, the Sottozero Ice 1 benefits from a new design on the external part of the tread, which makes the blocks even stronger and helps to retain all the studs: 384 in total, featuring unique tungsten tips. The total number of studs is the same as last year, as is the seven-millimetre protrusion. So effective are these studs at penetrating through the surface layer of snow and biting into the compacted ice below, that the traction on offer to the drivers is actually superior to most gravel rallies.

Pirelli will be equipping one WRC1 car from the top class, driven by Lorenzo Bertelli, together with a number of the leading WRC2 runners.

Rally Sweden will get underway from the city of Karlstad on Thursday evening, with the service park also located in the harbour area of the city throughout all three days, in a new move for this year. It's the only round of the World Rally Championship which is held in two countries ? as the action also ventures into Norway on Friday ? and one of the quickest events of the season, with just 4.6 seconds separating the top three heading into the final stage last year.

Karlstad is located in the 'Varmlands' area of Sweden, and in recent years warmer temperatures have meant that it's not always been full snow on the only winter rally of the championship. When conditions are mixed, this makes the job of the tyre even harder, as loose gravel can pull out some of the studs. A patented process that fixes the stud in place during vulcanisation helps to minimise this potential problem for the Pirelli runners.

Rally Sweden covers 21 special stages totalling 331.21 kilometres. Around a quarter of the total route is completely new this year and there are no longer any full service halts at midday: putting the accent on consistency for the drivers and cars.

Leading Pirelli drivers on Rally Sweden
Lorenzo Bertelli leads the charge for Pirelli in the top WRC1 class, driving a Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the second time in Sweden. Highlights of the Pirelli entry in WRC2 ? one step below the main WRC1 class ? are local Scandinavian experts Anders Grondal and Fredrik Ahlin, both driving a Ford Fiesta R5. Former FIA Production champion Max Rendina also takes part in the event on Pirelli tyres as well former European vice champion Michal Solowow.

The tyres
Just a single tyre is allowed for Sweden, which this year is the new Sottozero Ice 1 in 205/65-15 size. It's been especially developed for snow and ice, and Sweden is the only World Rally Championship outing for this tyre all year.

The rules
As there is only one type of tyre allowed for Sweden, the rules are very straightforward. World Rally Car crews can use 24 tyres on the event. The WRC2 crews have 22 tyres available.

Quotes

Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli rally activity manager:
"We've used our experience to further evolve the Sottozero Ice, and the result is the new and improved Sottozero Ice 1. In particular, this has made an important step forwards when it comes to stud retention by strengthening the tread blocks ? and with recent temperatures in Sweden having been on the warm side, this aspect is set to become even more crucial this year. We're confident that we have a product that is able to cope well with a wide variety of conditions, so we're looking forward to giving our drivers the opportunity to fight with the factory-backed cars, as was the case in WRC2 at the opening round in Monte Carlo."

Rally Sweden 2016 is still on - Revised Itinerary

Posted: February 8, 2016 10:38 AM

The weather situation with above zero temperatures in large parts of Scandinavia has caused huge problems for the organizers of Rally Sweden. The work with analyzing the status of roads in combination with following up changes in the weather forecasts has been going on for several days, in order to arrive at the decision whether the event can be run in parts or as a whole.

- The management with Route Manager Johan Magnusson and Clerk of the Course Stig-Rune Kjernsli in the lead have done all they can and then some to find solutions, and we will try to implement a competition after all, says Rally Sweden CEO Glenn Olsson.

The warm weather has, unfortunately, caused some stages to be unable to run and these are Shakedown, SSS 1, SS and SS Kirkenaer Hagfors Sprint. Opening ceremony and the Red Bull Show will go on as planned.
To minimize the number of cars driving on the roads, the supporting event Rally Sweden Historic will be cancelled.

- Of course incredibly sad to have to take the decision to cancel Historic, but it was either that or to cancel everything. We are happy that WRC event can be run, says Hasse Joansson, Clerk of the Course for Rally Sweden Historic.

The reconnaissance is moved to Wednesday and Thursday when cold weather is expected. This is to minimize the damage on the roads. The stages in best condition will be recced during Wednesday.

- To move the reconnaissance has been a crucial point for the implementation of event. The ground frost has thawed on some roads and we ask everyone to the absolute extent possible to avoid using the the rally routes until we have ground frost again, says Route Manager Johan Magnusson.

The status of the stages is that there is ice and snow on the stages on the northernmost stages and in the south there is a little snow and mostly gravel.

- We have, in dialogue with the FIA, ​​WRC Promoter and the teams, made the decision to go through with the event and everyone are aware of the preconditions. Now we hope that the weather gods are with us to get the below zero temperatures and sunshine as the forecast predicts, says Clerk of the Course, Stig-Rune Kjernsli.

An updated itinerary will be published later.

Troublesome weather situation for Rally Sweden

Posted: February 7, 2016 2:48 PM

The weather situation, with above zero temperatures and rain in large parts of Scandinavia causes big problems for Rally Sweden. Snow and ice is melting and the roads are getting loose in the surface.

- It's frightening how quickly the weather and the forecasts can change. We had a good layer of ice on our roads and promising forecasts this Friday. Now the situation is significantly changed, says Glenn Olsson, CEO of Rally Sweden.

The organisers have during the last few days been out inspecting the roads to stay on top of how things develop.

- There is below zero temperatures and even snow in the forecasts for the rally weekend, but the big question is if the roads will re-freeze because we need frozen roads to be able to hold the event. The forecast is for above zero degrees for the recognisance which is planned for Tuesday and Wednesday and the roads risk being destroyed then, says Route Manager Johan Magnusson.

Safety is the deciding factor where the roads must be usable for the competitors but also for the rescue vehicles.

- It is first and foremost the safety of the competitors and the spectators that decides if a stage is run or not. If we find the road dangerous we cannot use it, says Clerk of the Course Stig Rune Kjernsli.

On Monday Rally Sweden plans to present the current status of the roads and plans or how to go through with the event, made in cooperation with FIA and WRC Promoter.

M-SPORT SEEK SWEDISH SUCCESS

Posted: February 7, 2016 2:37 PM

M-Sport World Rally Team's Mads Ostberg and Eric Camilli head to the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship with very different objectives, but both will be keen to make their mark on the snow-covered stages of Rally Sweden.

The event is classed as the championship's only true winter rally, but milder winters have seen the crews contend with more than just snow banks of late.

A full snow rally can see the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs reach mind-blowing speeds as Michelin's X-Ice North tyres bite through the snow to capture grip on the hard ice below. But the warmer winters have resulted in a lack of ice and it is not unusual to see exposed gravel on a number of stages.

Should that be the case, the rally can take on a whole different nature and the most discerning crews will want to limit the exposed gravel damaging the 384 tungsten-tipped steel studs that cover each tyre.

One region that always boasts a lot of snow is Norway, and Ostberg will be keen to make his mark when the event crosses into his homeland on Friday.

The Norwegian has historically performed well in Sweden and came tantalisingly close to winning the event on his debut with the Fiesta RS WRC ? missing out to Mikko Hirvonen by a mere 6.5 seconds in 2011.

Partnered by compatriot co-driver Ola Floene, the pairing will be looking to further perfect their new partnership and will be well prepared having completed a number of tests in the lead-up to the rally.

Having completed a one and a half day test with the team, the Norwegians will also contest this weekend's Rally Finnskog. Always a contender for a podium in Sweden, Ostberg is doing all he can to ensure that will be the case again this year.

By contrast, next week will see Camilli contest his first ever snow rally. On his first venture to Sweden, the Frenchman will have a lot to learn and will focus on gaining as much experience as possible.

With fellow Frenchman Nicolas Klinger calling the notes, the pairing also completed a one and a half day test with the team to familiarise themselves with the art of winter rallying.

Using the event to gain the experience that could see him well placed in future years, Camilli is looking forward to the new challenges that lay in wait.

Following the news that the Fiesta was named Europe's best-selling small car for the fourth year running, M-Sport are keen to continue the Blue Oval's success next week.

QUOTE, END QUOTE

Mads Ostberg said:
"Everyone knows that Rally Sweden is one of the highlights of my year. Going over the border into Norway makes it a home event for me and we certainly want to give the home crowd something to cheer about!

"We had a good test this week and we'll also contest Rally Finnskog this weekend which will give us some more valuable seat time ahead of the rally. Experience counts for a lot in this game, so it's great for Ola and I to have some more competitive seat time together as we're now very close to where we want to be.

"We'll have to wait and see what the conditions are like before we know if we'll have any advantages or disadvantages from running fourth on the road, but I don't think it will cause us too much of an issue.

"I have a lot of good memories with the Fiesta RS WRC in Sweden and I want to add to those memories next week. If everything is perfect, then I see no reason why we can't be challenging for the podium positions. That is certainly our aim, and if the opportunity is there, I'm always going to push for the win!"

Eric Camilli said:
"A big challenge is waiting for me next week, but I am really looking forward to experiencing my first snow rally. There will be a lot to learn, but I'm motivated to learn as much as I can.

"We had a day and a half testing with the team this week and my first experiences were fantastic. Driving on snow gives you a real sensation of speed and I think that I am going to really enjoy this rally.

"We learnt a lot during the test, but I also know that I have much to learn before I will be able to challenge for the top positions. Mads is something of an expert on this surface and he gave me some advice during the test. I'm sure that I'll continue to learn from him on the rally as well.

"First, we want to gain the experience that will allow us to be competitive in the future. But if the confidence is there and we have a good feeling in the car, I will always try to see what times are possible."

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"Following some encouraging performances at the opening round in Monte-Carlo, we go to Sweden with our confidence high. Mads is always a contender on snow and he has achieved some fantastic results with the Fiesta in the past ? coming close to winning the event in 2011.

"The whole team can see his ambition. He has grown as a driver and he is hungry for victory. Next week provides him with an opportunity to secure that victory and if everything works in his favour then he certainly has the potential to deliver it.

"By contrast, this will be a big challenge for Eric. This will be his first ever snow rally on only his second outing with a world rally car so there will be a lot to learn. His target is to gain the experience that will see him compete for the top positions in the future."

EVANS AND BRYNILDSEN JOIN A HOST OF FIESTA R5 EVOS IN SWEDEN

Posted: February 7, 2016 2:36 PM

M-Sport World Rally Team will field two Ford Fiesta R5 Evos at Rally Sweden as Elfyn Evans and Eyvind Brynildsen fly the flag in the FIA World Rally Championship's (WRC) principal support series.

Contesting the WRC 2 category, the M-Sport pairing will be joined by a whole host of Fiesta drivers - the Blue Oval boasting an impressive 56 percent of the support series entry.

Just as impressive is the fact that Evans and Brynildsen will be amongst no fewer than 14 new-evolution Fiesta R5s - proving the speed at which M-Sport has been able to process the upgrades that were launched at the start of the year.

The Fiesta RS Evo made its WRC debut in superb fashion during last month's Rallye Monte-Carlo and, with Evans and co-driver Craig Parry at the wheel, M-Sport was the team to beat.

Despite incurring two separate punctures which cost the Welshman some three minutes to the leading pack, he could not be deprived of victory ? taking a convincing win two minutes clear of Esapekka Lappi.

But Evans biggest test is yet to come. Having only contested two snow rallies in his career, the Welshman will be going head to head with those who are considered specialists on the snow and ice of Rally Sweden.

Amongst Evans' main rivals are the Skoda Motorsport works drivers ? Lappi and local hero Pontus Tidemand. The competition will be tough, but Evans will look to use all of his experience - not to mention the Fiesta's extensive upgrades ? to challenge for the top positions.

Joining Evans in M-Sport's WRC 2 campaign is Brynildsen and his Swedish co-driver Anders Fredriksson. The Norwegian is a proven contender behind the wheel and was crowned last year's Norwegian Rally Champion.

Learning his trade in Scandinavia, he has a talent for winter rallying and is no stranger to the Swedish event having made his WRC debut there in 2006.

Strengthening M-Sport's continued partnership with Adapta Motorsport, Brynildsen will drive Adapta's newly-acquired Fiesta R5 Evo ? prepared and maintained by M-Sport's team of technicians and engineers.

With his ambition high, Brynildsen will be hoping to delight the Scandinavia crowd with a top result on home soil.

Tough Technical Sweden Will Test Studded Tyres

Posted: February 7, 2016 2:36 PM

Next week's Rally Sweden, the only winter rally in the FIA World Rally Championship, is set to provide one of the toughest tests of the season for tyre manufacturer DMACK and its customers.

Snow and ice-covered roads demand a very special tyre, with numerous technical variables all contributing to the end performance. DMACK has updated its DMG-ICE tyre, which has already proved its potential taking Jari Ketomaa and Eyvind Brynildsen to a dominant 1-2 in WRC 2 last season, with a number of tweaks to boost its performance even further.

The unique V-style tread pattern remains. allowing the tyre to be used on either side of the car and giving drivers enhanced flexibility. However, DMACK has made a few modifications to the compound and studding system to improve grip, traction and all-important stud retention.

Each tyre is equipped with 384 metal pins which bite into the frozen surfaces and provide impressive grip. But warmer temperatures next week in Sweden look likely to increase exposed gravel on many stages, especially on second pass, which rips studs from the tyres.

Studded winter tyres are designed specifically to deliver high levels of traction on snow and frozen roads but the absence of ice is likely to play havoc with stud retention and force drivers to cleverly manage tyre allocations during the event.

DMACK World Rally Team drivers Ott Tanak and Raigo M?lder are looking forward to tackling the high-speed Sweden tests in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. They will be hoping to build on their seventh place on round one at Monte Carlo, which also placed the DMACK team fifth in the race for the manufacturer world title.

It's also the opening rally in the WRC 2 campaign for the Drive DMACK Trophy Team. Norwegians Marius Aasen and Veronica Engan, current Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy champions, take up their prize drive at the wheel of an M-Sport-run Fiesta R5. They are joined by Estonian Sander Parn and Welsh co-driver James Morgan, winners of the one-make series in 2014.

The event is the only winter rally of the season and has moved base further south to the city of Karlstad this year. The action gets underway with a popular blast around Karlstad's trotting track, which attracts thousands of fans, on Thursday evening.

Much of Friday's action takes place in Norway with a remote service, while Saturday and Sunday stages are based around last year's host town Hagfors. A quarter of the tests are new and the rally features no mid-day service at all ? placing even more pressure on crews to have a mistake free run. They will tackle 21 timed stages and 331km of competitive action.

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:
"This is our sixth Rally Sweden and you never know what the event will bring - it is a hugely demanding rally for tyres. DMACK had an excellent result last year with a strong first and second in WRC 2 and our tyre really suited those conditions, but this year is looking much different with almost no snow. We've made a few performance tweaks to the DMG-ICE winter tyre but, if the conditions are above freezing as predicted, then it's going to be very difficult with stud retention. A clever strategy to manage tyres will be critical."

Ott Tanak said:
"I really like Rally Sweden, it's usually an enjoyable event and a fast rally where you can get a really nice feeling. Hopefully we will have enough snow this year but I remember even last year the second pass had lots of gravel and it was very tough on tyres. It will take some clever driving to manage the situation."

Fiesta Trophy Champions Join DMACK Trophy Team

Posted: February 7, 2016 2:35 PM

Current Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy champions Marius Aasen and Veronica Engan will begin their 2016 prize drive at next week's Rally Sweden as part of the new Drive DMACK Trophy Team.

The new team will also field 2014 winners Sander Parn and James Morgan ? both sets of crews being awarded the biggest prize in world rallying as part of their Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy titles.

Norwegians Aasen and Engan will effectively be on home soil next week with the Swedish event crossing the border into Norway for the majority of the special stage action on Friday. After winning their prize on the final rally of last year's season in Spain, the pair are pleased to be stepping up to the Fiesta R5 on a surface they are relatively familiar with.

Estonian Parn, with Welsh co-driver James Morgan, has had an outing on snow already this year ? finishing fifth overall on the Arctic Lapland Rally last weekend. They're also keen to build on their 2015 season with a fresh and more experienced approach.

Meanwhile, registrations for this year's Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy are filling fast with just two week's left until the first closing date. Competitors from across the world will once again battle in identical Ford Fiesta R2 cars run by M-Sport across five FIA World Rally Championship events.

It's the most affordable way for young drivers to taste action on the world stages and has constantly proven to be the most competitive one-make series at that level.

In addition to the main prize of a full season in WRC 2, competitors can also battle for the Rookie and Vatanen Touch Awards ? which sees finalists contest an end-of-season shoot-out for another prize drive.

More information on the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy is available at www.drivedmack.com.

Three Questions to 24-year-old Marius Aasen:

Are you looking forward to stepping up to the Ford Fiesta R5?
MA: It's going to be a really great car to drive. I've driven the R5 in the UK last year, have just shaken it down at M-Sport this week and we are testing on Monday, and the car feels really good. It's a big step up from the R2 but I felt pretty comfortable with it quite quickly. I'm happy that we are starting our season in Sweden, I'm familiar with this surface and remember some of the stages from the last time I competed in 2012.

How have you been preparing for 2016?
MA: I visited M-Sport this week to learn more about the car and how the team works and we will be testing on Monday to learn about the DMACK studded tyres and just get a good feeling before the start of the rally. Like most people, I've been watching the onboard videos of the stages and working with Veronica to make sure we are prepared as much as possible.

What has competing in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy taught you?
MA: The last two years in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy have really helped me learn how to manage situations and think about strategy ? and that's definitely made me a smarter driver. We have to learn to manage tyre allocations and drive clever through some tough stage conditions. It's about driving at the right speed over the whole weekend. The Trophy is also like a big family and it builds many relationships between the team, mechanics and other competitors.

Three Questions to 23-year-old Sander Parn:

How was the Arctic Lapland Rally?
SP: It was a very good rally to prepare for Sweden. We completed all the stages and it was my first drive with a rally car this winter and also my first time using the wider DMACK studded tyres. It was a big learning curve but also very beneficial ahead of Sweden.

What is the aim for this season?
SP: Last year didn't really go to plan for us so we took the decision to focus on 2016. It's great to be able to start again with a full programme and we are approaching it with much more experience this year and more seat time in the Fiesta R5. I'm not worrying too much about the results but I will focus on my own performance and give the best I have.

How did competing in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy help?
SP: The Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy was the best possible way to start my WRC career. It gave me experience in a competitive environment but also put me on an equal level with all the other drivers ? that helps you see where are your strengths and weaknesses and where you need to improve. We had a big battle all season and winning the prize has given me a big step up.

Winter sport, rally style - Volkswagen full of ambition ahead of unique WRC round in Sweden

Posted: February 7, 2016 2:34 PM

Unbeaten on this turf, and lining up with three duos hungry for victory ? Volkswagen goes into the Rally Sweden (11?14 February 2016) brimming with confidence. Three-time world champions Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), who have two Rally Sweden victories to their name, once again start as World Championship leaders. Their toughest opposition looks likely to come from their own team-mates: Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (N/N) and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN). All three pairs were in contention last year, with Ogier and Ingrassia ultimately clinching victory in the closing metres in a dramatic finale. The Rally Sweden is of particular significance to Volkswagen. The maiden victory for the Polo R WRC in 2013 heralded an unprecedented success story, which continues today with 35 wins from 40 rallies. Since this rally, the top spot in the Drivers' and Co-Drivers' Championship has always been occupied by a Volkswagen duo.

"We will probably always travel to the Rally Sweden with a sense of pride and anticipation," said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. "The entire team will never forget the scene of our first win in the World Rally Championship. Over the past three years, we have always enjoyed outstanding rallies in Sweden ? with wins for Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, as well as some very special moments for Andreas Mikkelsen. These include his first podium and what was so nearly his first victory twelve months ago, for example. The rally fans will be raving about last year's drama, when three drivers all had an equal chance of winning right down to the final stage, for a long time ? unless the coming Rally Sweden is even more exciting than 2015."

Drama, baby, or: the most exciting in rally history

The 2015 Rally Sweden went down in history as one of the closest of the modern day era. 4.6 seconds ? the equivalent of just 162.84 metres ? separated the first three going into the closing Power Stage. It does not get much more exciting than that. As such, the final 15.84 kilometres of a total 308 against the clock were left to decide who would take which step on the podium. Sebastien Ogier initially set the fastest time, thus guaranteeing a Volkswagen victory. However, the last man on the route, Andreas Mikkelsen, was still in with a shout of winning the Rally Sweden right down to the final split time ? until a slight skid and the resulting spin dashed any hopes of a maiden WRC victory. It did not, however, prevent him from claiming back-to-back podiums. Mikkelsen/Floene took about 40 seconds to get back on course and went on to finish third.

It is not uncommon for fractions of a second to make all the difference at the Rally Sweden, as was the case most recently in 2015. As such, fans have had the 2016 Rally Sweden marked red in their calendars for a long time. As has Andreas Mikkelsen, who has his sights set on nothing less than a first victory at his home rally in Sweden with new co-driver Anders Jaeger.

What do you mean Varmland? ? 331.21 kilometres through the #WinterThunderland

Across the ice and snow of Varmland and Dalarna at rally speed, plus the day of the Norwegians ? the Rally Sweden is the only event on the WRC calendar, which is held in two countries. And there is more: the "Rojden" special stage crosses the border between Sweden and Norway. As such, the second round of the World Rally Championship is something of a home event for Mikkelsen/Jaeger. The 2016 route features a total 331.21 kilometres against the clock spread over 21 special stages, including genuine classics. The rally kicks off on Thursday evening with the spectator stage on the horse racing track in Karlstad, which is identical to last year. "Torsby", "Rojden", "Kirkenaer", "Fredriksberg", "Rammen", the "Hagfors Sprint", "Lesjofors" and the closing Power Stage "Varmullsasen" are also unchanged from 2015. It goes without saying that the iconic "Vargasen" stage, with its spectacular jumps of over 40 metres on "Colin's Crest", can never be left out ? and is once again scheduled for Saturday in 2016.

2013, 2014, 2015 ? Volkswagen unbeaten in Sweden

There are still a few rallies, at which Volkswagen is undefeated with the Polo R WRC. Sweden is one of them. The World Rally Car from Wolfsburg won only its second rally in 2013 with Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, who went on to complete the "Nordic Grand Slam" with victory in Finland in the same year ? the first time central Europeans had achieved this feat. Ogier/Ingrassia were back on the top step of the podium in 2015. Sandwiched between these two victories were Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, who triumphed for Volkswagen in 2014.

One of a kind: the Michelin X-Ice North offers total grip and maximum fun

At 195 millimetres, narrower than its gravel and asphalt counterparts, screwed 13.5 millimetres deep, 384 studs protruding 6.5 millimetres: the standard Michelin tyre used exclusively at the Rally Sweden is rather special. A maximum 24 of these "Sweden Spike" tyres may be used per World Rally Car. This is not a problem if the crews are greeted by dream conditions, with plenty of ice and snow ? like last year. However, should only a thin layer of the slippery stuff await the competitors, the possibility of churned-up gravel forming the driving surface makes the studs a valuable commodity to be handled with care.

Quotes ahead of the Rally Sweden

Sebastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
"It is obviously fantastic to travel to Sweden on the back of a dream start to the season and with 28 points to our name. The conditions there are unique, and unlike anything anywhere else in the rallying world. Thanks to the special spiked tyres, we have perfect grip on the ice and snow and can position the car precisely at high speed. I am expecting a close Rally Sweden. I am certainly looking forward to the next rally. Last year it was a tough struggle with the Nordic drivers. They are the ones to beat in Sweden."

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
"The Rally Sweden is like a home rally for me. I love driving on snow. No question, it is tougher travelling to Sweden with no points than after a good result in Monte Carlo. However, I cannot do anything about that now. The positive to come out of the situation is that I will have a better starting position. A good starting position means you have much better conditions and do not need to take as many risks. I must take advantage of that, in order to get back in the race for the title. However, it is also clear that I have two team-mates, in Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen, who have not only both shown that they are capable of winning in Sweden, but are also particularly motivated. Not to mention the opposition from the other teams."

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
"Firstly, I am not travelling to the Rally Sweden to finish second. It is my home rally, as part of the route is in my native Norway. Many of my friends and my entire family will be there, and it has always been my dream to win there. I came so damned close last year. I had the win in my hands ? but ultimately came up just short in the final few metres. The conditions at the Rally Sweden are extreme. We drive on 6.5-millimetre long 'Sweden spikes', which generate a huge amount of grip. Furthermore, you can 'lean' against the walls of snow to the left and right of the road, in order to maintain your speed. This means you can really put your foot down without taking too many risks. We have made a good start to the season, and I will do everything in my power to win in Sweden for the first time."

Did you know ?

... the "Sweden spikes" offer more grip on ice and snow than gravel tyres do on typical gravel? In Argentina, it takes an average 124.87 metres to accelerate from zero to 100 kilometres per hour. In Sweden, this figure is just 107.32 metres.

... Anders Jaeger is the only current co-driver to have won a special stage at his very first rally in the top category of the WRC ? in this case the 2016 Rally Monte Carlo? And that is not all: none of the current crop of WRC co-drivers, except Jaeger, can point to a podium finish on his WRC debut. Andreas Mikkelsen's 26-year-old co-driver could now go one better in Sweden: victory at only their second rally is another feat that none of the current WRC co-drivers has achieved. That would be the case for Jaeger, were he to win the Rally Sweden.

... there have only been three years since 1950, in which the Rally Sweden has not formed part of the World Rally Championship? In 1974, it was cancelled due to the energy crisis. In 1990, the weather was too mild to stage the rally. In 2009, the FIA rotation system meant that the Rally Sweden was not held as a round of the World Rally Championship.

... the longest jump over the legendary "Colin's Crest" was achieved in 2015 by Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), with a distance of 44 metres? The second longest 'flight' on that particular Saturday in February 2015: Andreas Mikkelsen with 41 metres. The organisers of the Rally Sweden present a prize for the furthest and, therefore, most courageous jump, in honour of the fearless and legendary Colin McRae.

Meeke, Al-Qassimi and Breen up for Swedish challenge

Posted: February 7, 2016 2:10 PM

Three cars have been entered by the Abu Dhabi Total WRT at Rally Sweden (11-14 February). Following their impressive performance in Monte-Carlo, Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle will be joined in Scandinavia by Khalid Al-Qassimi/Chris Patterson and Craig Breen/Scott Martin. Each crew will have to negotiate different challenges at one of the most demanding, atypical events of the season.

The only full winter rally on the calendar, Rally Sweden is always eagerly awaited by fans of the WRC. The World Rally Cars are able to drift around the corners of the icy roads at speeds in excess of 160kph thanks to the grip afforded by the Michelin studded tyres. The crews and photographers love it here, as do the many spectators who brave the cold conditions to get a glimpse of their heroes on the stages. In Scandinavia, rallying is part and parcel of the local culture!

As the weather has been fairly mild for the last few weeks, conditions for the 2016 event look set to be very difficult. Even if temperatures drop dramatically and there is heavy snowfall, the snow banks lining the stages will in all likelihood remain too soft and the slightest error will almost certainly mean the crews having to dig themselves out of the snow.

Already in the limelight at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT will take another step forward this weekend in entering three cars at this round. On his sixth appearance in Sweden, Khalid Al-Qassimi will be the team's most experienced driver. Winner of the prestigious Colin's Crest trophy in 2008 ? which rewards the longest jump on the Vargasen stage, in memory of the late Colin McRae ? the Abu Dhabi driver enjoys this event despite the fact it could not be any further removed from the deserts of the Middle East!

Having only competed in Sweden twice before, in 2014 (10th) and 2015 (7th), Kris Meeke is something of a novice here! Last year, the Northern Irishman produced a very strong performance since he was on course for a podium finish until he ran wide and got stuck in one of the famous snow banks on Finnskogen. This third appearance will therefore be devoted to gaining as much experience as possible for the future.

After appearing in Monte-Carlo for recce and to get used to the team's way of working, Craig Breen will be contesting his first rally with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT. The Irishman is a big fan of the Swedish stages and knows that he has a golden opportunity to showcase his skills at the top level. Earlier in his career, Craig secured two category podium-finishes in Super 2000 cars (2011 and 2012). Two years ago, he scored points on his first competitive outing in a World Rally Car, as he finished ninth.

In line with the programme defined at the start of the season, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT crews will each have one day of pre-event testing, organised this weekend in the Hagfors region.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Kris Meeke (#7):
"It's true that I don't have a lot of experience in Sweden, but this is one of my favourite rallies! Driving in these conditions is a genuinely unique pleasure. To begin with, you have to force yourself to push because your body and mind are telling you that you're skidding. And yet you have to put as much power through the tyres as possible. And then the grip increases massively! It's a bit like driving a car with a lot of downforce, you have to push back your own limits to get the absolute maximum in terms of performance? without overstepping the mark! This year, we know that the road conditions may be difficult but it's the same for everyone. Although we made an encouraging start in Monte-Carlo, I don't think we'll be able to challenge for victory again, because I still have a lot to learn on this surface. But I would be pleased if I manage to reproduce the same kind of performance as last year."

Khalid Al-Qassimi (#14):
"Rally Sweden is so special, of course, and it has its own character. We have to deal with it carefully as the slightest mistake can cost a lot of time. We will follow a balanced rhythm of driving, as it's two years since I last competed in Sweden. I have to get the feeling back in such tricky conditions, then we will raise our pace when we feel it's possible to do so. My goal is to enjoy the rally and to finish it with the best result possible. I would like to wish Kris and Craig all the best in Sweden. I am confident that Abu Dhabi Total WRT will be competitive in Sweden too."

Craig Breen (#15):
"It's a childhood dream come true. Being able to drive a car like this in the World Championship is such an important opportunity for the rest of my career. I would like to thank everyone that has made it possible for me to be here, starting with Abu Dhabi and Total. This is the first time I have competed at Rally Sweden in a World Rally Car and I have already seen just how hard it is to make the final step. Above all, it has been the level of competitiveness among the drivers that has most impressed me. I now have to grab this chance and show that I deserve my place among the elite. My aim is to keep improving throughout the rally, not to push like crazy on the first stage. I have a lot to learn and I'll have other opportunities to show my speed. If I finish in the top six, that would be a fantastic result."

BRYNILDSEN GETS A NEW EVOLUTION FORD FIESTA R5 FOR RALLY SWEDEN

Posted: January 20, 2016 7:20 AM

Continuing M-Sport's close partnership with Adapta Motorsport, Eyvind Brynildsen will take to the wheel of the new evolution Ford Fiesta R5 at next month's Rally Sweden.

Joining forces with Elfyn Evans, the pairing will contest the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in a variation of the M-Sport World Rally Team livery that was revealed at this week's Autosport International.

Following more than six months of development, the new evolution Fiesta R5 has been heightened with a substantial engine upgrade that delivers a significant increase in power - an incredible gain of 32bhp at 4500rpm and 56Nm of torque at 4000rpm which equates to the single best development step in any M-Sport engine.

Brynildsen is a proven talent behind the wheel and a formidable competitor on snow - claiming the Norwegian Rally Championship title with the Ford Fiesta RRC last year.

It is hoped that the combination of Evans and Brynildsen will see M-Sport compete for the top positions in WRC 2.

Eyvind Brynildsen said:
"I am really looking forward to Rally Sweden which will be something of a home event for me. Last year I won the Norwegian Rally Championship at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta so I have good knowledge of M-Sport's cars and I can't wait to experience the huge gains that M-Sport has made with the Fiesta R5.

"It really is fantastic to be driving as part of the M-Sport team and I think that we can be competitive. I will certainly do my best to fight for the top positions and bring home a really strong result for the team."

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"The combination of Elfyn and Eyvind will allow us to challenge for WRC 2 victory at next month's Rally Sweden. Being something of a specialist event, we felt it important to have someone accustomed to winter rallying and I think Eyvind will do a great job for us.

"His appointment also continues our close partnership with Adapta Motorsport. We know how strong Eyvind is - especially on snow - and I am confident that he can be at the top of the time sheets throughout the weekend."

Entry List

Posted: January 15, 2016 1:02 PM

Entries Received

Posted: January 1, 2016 2:02 PM

Available on the Competitors page at:

Criag Breen to drive Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team DS3 WRC in Sweden

Posted: December 18, 2015 8:41 AM

Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team DS3 WRC in Sweden will enter Three cars at Rally Sweden (11-14 February) for Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson and Craig Breen/Scott Martin. Craig Breen will be making his debut outing in the DS 3 WRC, but he will have the advantage of competing at a rally he really enjoys. After two good performances in the Super 2000 category cars in 2011 and 2012, he secured a top-ten finish in 2014 on his first outing in a World Rally Car. Kris Meeke finished seventh overall in Sweden last year, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi?s best result was tenth place in 2011.

Rally Guide Available / Event Website

Posted: December 8, 2015 7:03 AM

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