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Sweden - 5-8 Feb 14
Posted: February 25, 2014 7:13 PM - 4049 Hits
Round 2 - 2014 World Rally Championship
Breen nets ninth on full WRC Debut
Posted: February 25, 2014 2:24 PM
Within a few hours of stepping off the podium at ERC Rally Liep?ja in Latvia Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen was on a plane en route to his next event WRC Rally Sweden and with only a couple of hours sleep Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin began recce the following morning at 6am.
The event got underway on Wednesday evening and began with a short 1.9km spectator stage that was very tricky in places and nobody including Craig was going to risk damage or even retirement so early in the rally.
On the first full day rallying it was never going to be easy for Peugeot Rally Academy driver as he made his competitive debut in full WRC machinery. The Day 2 (Thursday) schedule saw the crews tackle six stages that crisscrossed the Norwegian and Swedish border and with no service during the day it was all about survival. Craig had a good time through the opening 7.03km stage despite reporting a misfire on gear change throughout the test. Craig was 9.9 seconds down on stage winner Sebastien Ogier but the competition was so great that Craig’s time only saw him slot into eleventh place overall. Through the next stage Craig still hampered by the misfire put in another solid time to go twelfth fastest but a brief visit to a snowbank on SS4 saw him down 38.8 seconds to fastest man this time Andreas Mikkelsen and that dropped Craig to fifteenth overall at the mid loop regroup. When the crews went out to tackle the stages for the second time they were greeted by stages that were now more gravel than snow in places but ever consistent Craig still learning how to drive his unfamiliar WRC car posted another very good time climbing up one place on the leader board to fourteenth and returned to the evening service eager to find whether or not he himself had caused the misfire with his S2000 car driving style.
Freezing overnight rain made conditions very difficult on the first loop of the Day 3 (Friday) stages and the Peugeot Rally Academy driver with a full competitive day behind him knew now how he had to adapt his driving to suit a turbo charged WRC car and with nine stages during the day he was going to have plenty of time to practice. Craig now running fourth on the road was unaware of the drama unfolding behind him that saw front runners Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville in trouble. Craig now up to twelfth had his own drama having a spin on the following SS9 and he complained that his rear suspension was so harsh it was hurting his back enough to prevent him pushing on the rougher parts of the stage.
Unusual for Rally Sweden the rain came down later in the day and cleaned all snow from the gravel roads. With conditions worsening Craig moved up another two places to 10th but as the hard charging Ogier fought back into the top ten the Peugeot Rally Academy driver found himself demoted to 11th on the next stage. As the day drew to a close Craig felt unwell and was questioning whether or not it was flu or fatigue brought on by his lack of sleep leading up to the rally.
The final day began early and with running order reversal based on rally positions overall Craig dropped to 5th on the road making conditions very difficult for him as he cleaned and helped define the racing line for those coming behind him. Craig kept out of trouble and consistently posted times throughout the day’s eight stages to eventually come home 9th overall. At the rally finish Craig said
“It’s my dream since I was a boy to compete on a WRC event in a WRC car and to finish 9th on my first try especially on a tough Rally like this, is really a dream come through.”
Craig returns to his Peugeot Rally Academy duties in March behind the wheel of the all new Peugeot 208 T16 at the ERC Acropolis Rally in Greece.
BRONZE MEDAL FOR MADS ØSTBERG / Kris Meeke finishes in the points
Posted: February 25, 2014 2:22 PM
There were still some 142 kilometres of timed stages to run on today’s leg, which equates to 44% of the total distance. Despite the conditions remaining difficult, with a lot of slush and water, Mads Østberg managed to up his pace.
Increasingly comfortable in his Citroën DS3 WRC, the Norwegian closed the gap to his fellow countryman Andreas Mikkelsen in second. Pushing hard, he claimed his first stage win with Citroën on Torntorp 2. He repeated the feat on the Power Stage to collect the three bonus points. He secured his first podium finish in the DS3 WRC, ending the rally just 5.9 seconds shy of second spot.
After starting the day in sixth position, Kris Meeke lost seven minutes when he went off and got stuck in snow bank on SS18. The Northern Irishman nonetheless managed to finish the rally in tenth position, scoring eight points for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in the process.
Once again one of the first on the road today, Khalid Al Qassimi had to deal with especially slippery conditions. Careful to avoid making any mistakes, he finished the event in sixteenth place.
“We have made a lot of progress since Friday. I’m pleased to finish on the podium in Sweden for the fourth year running! The three points from the Power Stage are a nice bonus. I feel more and more confident in the car, which is promising for the next few events. We have learned a lot and now I can’t wait to tackle the gravel rallies.”
“I think I can be pleased with this first rally on snow. The only minor mistake we made proved very costly. If there had been spectators around, we would probably have only lost fifteen seconds or so. But we had to get the car out ourselves. However, the rest of the weekend went very well. We have learned a lot. The main thing for me is that we managed to get close to the leading guys. And finishing in the points is encouraging for the rest of the season.”
Khalid Al Qassimi:
“I tried to be more aggressive today. Things went well from the second stage onwards. We had a few hairy moments but we made good progress. On the Power Stage, I preferred to ease off a little and not make a mistake, so I could be sure of reaching the end without any problems.”
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal):
“Our crews met the targets that we set them. Mads has secured his first podium finish with Citroën on what is more or less his home event. More than the result itself, it’s the way that he has tackled the rally that has impressed us the most. He changed his driving style and took a step closer to getting the best out of Citroën DS3 WRC. He did a lot of work with the team and his times throughout the rally are very encouraging. Kris had an intelligent race. He completed all the stages and I don’t think we can hold his minor mistake against him. At the end of the day, he has produced a better performance that many a driver at their first Rally Sweden. We’re very pleased with his performance levels and the points he has picked up for Citroën. Khalid wanted to drive on snow. The conditions weren’t kind to him, but he enjoyed himself.”
SOLBERG SHOWS PACE AND DURABILITY OF PIRELLI SOTTOZERO ICE TYRE ON WORLD RALLY CAR RETURN IN SWEDEN
Posted: February 25, 2014 2:20 PM
Henning Solberg marked Pirelli’s return to the top flight of the FIA World Rally Championship with a stage victory on Rally Sweden for the Sottozero Ice tyre, which equipped a World Rally Car in competition for the first time since 2010.
And as well as demonstrating the pace of the Italian rubber by setting a string of top three times, Solberg underlined the durability of the Sottozero Ice tyre by carrying just one spare in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC on the morning and afternoon loops of days two and three, when the drivers using tyres from rival suppliers selected a pair of spare covers. On a number of occasions, his was the fastest Ford.
Unseasonably mild weather around the rally route turned the normally ice and snow-covered forest roads into slippery tracks coated in mud and slush, with large sections of gravel also exposed. That placed a huge onus on the grip levels of the Sottozero Ice as well as the unique stud retention system developed by Pirelli.
Each Sottozero Ice tyre features 384 studs with Tungsten tips, protruding seven millimetres, which are locked into the tyre to prevent stud loss in a unique vulcanisation process patented by Pirelli. The tyre comes in 205/65-15 size, so that it can be mounted on the same rim as used for gravel tyres: a compromise between the traditional narrow shape of a snow tyre and the dimensions of the gravel rim. This brings the Sottozero Ice even closer to Pirelli’s road car tyres, which all benefit from the lessons learned in competition.
“I knew the Pirelli Sottozero Ice tyre was good in 2010 but now it is even better,” said Norwegian Solberg, who finished seventh overall. “Winning a stage was also very good and I am very pleased. I took one spare tyre in the morning and one spare tyre in the afternoon, which made the car better and more fun to drive. I was the only driver who did this but it was perfect and there was no worries about the tyres and the studs lasting.”
Pirelli’s senior tyre engineer, Matteo Braga, said:
“It was very encouraging performance and we are very pleased. Even though we have not competed in the World Rally Car class since 2010, we have not stopped working during these three years and the job we have been doing in the national championships we have contested has made a big difference. Henning was happy and confident with the tyres and the balance they gave him. The stage win on day two was good, as was the second-fastest time Henning recorded on stage four. We were also very happy with the stud retention but also the quality of the studs. We experienced no problems in this respect and that was very satisfying.”
Round three of the 2014 WRC is in Mexico from March 6-9.
Volkswagen one-two in Sweden – Old hand Latvala pips youngster Mikkelsen
Posted: February 25, 2014 2:06 PM
Volkswagen claimed its second one-two of the season at the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) not only clinched a frenetically celebrated one-two, but also put on an extremely gripping duel for the fans. In difficult conditions at the Rally Sweden – thawing temperatures, snow and rain made for a difficult combination – the Polo R WRC proved to be the fastest car for the second time in a row. 43 of 69 possible top-three times, of which 18 produced stage wins, and a one-two-three at the top of the overall standings for a while – Sweden was once again a happy stomping ground for Volkswagen in 2014.
The team’s Nordic drivers – Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen – were embroiled in a spectacular duel for long periods of the rally, scrapping for every fraction of a second. In the end, they could both consider themselves real winners: Latvala celebrated his ninth WRC victory, the third at the Rally Sweden and the second in Volkswagen colours – and also moved to the top of the Drivers’ Championship in the process. Mikkelsen made his first appearance on the podium at the pinnacle of rallying. World Champions Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) ended the Rally Sweden in sixth place after a mighty fightback, having previously dropped back to 20th overall following a rare driver error.
“We are delighted that Jari-Matti Latvala’s fine performance this weekend has paid dividends,” said Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, Volkswagen Board Member for Technical Development. “This win was fully deserved and the result of some intelligent driving. Andreas Mikkelsen – the junior member of our team – showed in the trickiest of conditions that he has the potential to compete with the best in the world. Sébastien Ogier was a bit unfortunate with his slip-up. Despite this, he was once again the man to beat this weekend, claiming ten stage wins.”
Duel of the weekend: Latvala vs. Mikkelsen
Finland 13 – Norway 10: the all-Volkswagen duel between Latvala and Mikkelsen had fans on the edge of their seats for pretty much the entire Rally Sweden. It took until Saturday’s final leg to decide which of the two team-mates would emerge victorious from their gripping head-to-head. The morning started with just 3.6 seconds separating the old hand and the youngster. Only after a slight mistake from Andreas Mikkelsen in extremely difficult conditions did Jari-Matti Latvala feel the pressure fall from his shoulders. Mikkelsen lost crucial seconds after spinning on the 18th special stage. A glance at the statistics reveals the extent, to which the Volkswagen drivers dominated the Rally Sweden: Latvala made 18 appearances in the top three, Mikkelsen 13. Jari-Matti Latvala also picked up the 300th stage win of his career in Sweden.
Fightback of the weekend: Ogier recovers to claim sixth
Steered in a fraction of a second too late, skidded into a snow wall, but able to fight on thanks to a little help from the fans – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia experienced both faces of the Rally Sweden on Friday. Although their mistake cost them the lead, the World Championship winning duo in the Polo R WRC were able to continue at the only snow rally of the season. A run of stage wins saw them recover from 20th place to earn valuable championship points. In total, Ogier/Ingrassia set the fastest time on ten stages.
Valuable commodity: looking after studded tyres the key to success
A thin layer of ice and snow on the first loop, followed by gravel that has been raked to the surface on the second loop – not exactly ideal conditions for the standard studded tyres used at the Rally Sweden. Wherever the gravel had risen to the surface, the drivers risked breaking the tungsten spikes on the Michelin “X-ice North 2” tyres should they push too hard. Both Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen made good use of their 28 tyres during their battle for overall victory. They both set off on Saturday’s final two loops with six brand-new Michelin tyres.
Lead extended – Volkswagen Motorsport tops the Manufacturers’ Championship
The lead increased by twelve points: Volkswagen leads the Manufacturers’ Championship after the second win of the year. The works team, consisting of Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, currently has 72 points to its name – 16 more than Citroën and 50 ahead of M-Sport-Ford.
Power Stage yields two bonus points for Jari-Matti Latvala
Victory in Sweden saw Jari-Matti Latvala move to the top of the World Championship for the first time in his career, and as if that were not enough, he also picked up bonus points on the Power Stage. Second place behind Ford driver Mads Østberg on the closing special stage, on which extra points are awarded to the fastest three cars, mean Latvala now has 40 points to his name. He is followed five points back in second place by World Champion Sébastien Ogier. Andreas Mikkelsen is fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with 24 points.
Quotes after day three of the Rally Sweden
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Sixth place is the conciliation prize for us. Sure, Julian and I would love to have repeated the success of last year, but after my mistake on Friday, eight points are the best we could have hoped for. We made a clean run of it on the final day, despite the incredibly slippery conditions. Also, by setting 10 fastest times here we’ve demonstrated that we will be a force to be reckoned with again next year, since Rally Sweden is one of my absolutely favourite events in the WRC calendar. Congratulations to Jari-Matti and Miikka, who put in a fantastic performance, just as Andreas and Mikko did. The team has another reason to celebrate and in the World Championship it is always exciting.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC#2
“It’s amazing to have won the Rally Sweden for the third time. This victory is especially important to me as I won my first ever WRC rally here in 2008. Clinching the victory was no easy task, the difficult conditions and solid times from my team-mates meant that Miikka and I had concentrate fully and give it our best. Due to the thawing snow we drove over a lot of gravel and had to be shrewd when it came to sparing the tyres. Andreas Mikkelsen didn’t make it easy yesterday, he drove a strong rally and fully deserves to be on the podium. It was brilliant that we were allowed to fight in out fairly and weren’t obliged to bow to team orders and is unique in this format. It’s not down to this that I feel very content at Volkswagen.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC#9
“First time on the podium! I have longed so much for this result. To have achieved it practically on my doorstep is awesome! The final day here in Sweden was once again a real challenge. With the slushy snow and exposed gravel, which characterised the second loop, it was certainly not easy. I had a whiff of victory for long parts of the race – which felt great. After a small mistake, I wasn’t able to keep up the pressure on team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala. Instead, I turned my concentration on maintaining the gap between myself and Mads Østberg in third place and in the end it was a close run thing. However, all said and done we thoroughly deserved our second place. To have made this breakthrough in the world championship here at Rally Sweden, with some of the toughest conditions in years, makes me feel particularly proud. My team, my co-driver Mikko Markkula and I have earned a beer or two today. We will celebrate in style tonight.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“We have the best rally drivers in the world under contract and with the Polo R WRC, they had the quickest and most reliable car here in Sweden. We’ve always known this, but now the results tell you all you need to know. Jari-Matti Latvala clinched this victory with a perfect performance, but he also had to fight it out. He went into battle with Andreas Mikkelsen, who impressed us all. Hats off to both of them, but also to Sébastien Ogier, ten fastest times and a strong comeback speak for themselves. On this occasion he didn’t have the luck of the brave and has to come to terms with the fact that getting stuck in snow is a part of rallying. The team now has the luxurious problem of having to open the next rally in Mexico with the championship leader and second and fourth placed drivers in the standings. But we’ll gladly put up with that. I am unbelievably proud of the result and of the team, whose hard work has paid dividends once again.”
And then there was ...
... Sébastien Ogier’s new record. The Volkswagen works driver travelled a massive 41 metres through the air before landing after the infamous “Colin’s Crest” jump – in doing so he eclipsed the previous best, set by American Ken Block, by a full four metres.
And then there was also ...
... Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, who paid the Volkswagen team a spontaneous visit on Saturday afternoon. As Duke of Värmland, where the Rally Sweden is held, the man third in line to the Swedish throne knows his way around more than just the local geography. Last year, Carl Philip of Sweden lined up at the Rally Sweden himself, taking part in a support class at the wheel of a vintage Porsche 911.
KUBICA COMPLETES A CHALLENGING SWEDISH DEBUT
Posted: February 25, 2014 2:05 PM
Rally Sweden provided a host of challenges for Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak. Contesting the snow-covered stages for the first time behind the wheel of their RK M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the week was not without incident. Despite finishing the event in 24th place, the Pole was able to develop his knowledge and experience of the unfamiliar surface.
As the FIA World Rally Championship’s only true winter rally, the chance for a driver to test his skills on snow comes around just once a year. Continuing to advance as one of the series’ most promising up-and-coming talents, it was paramount that Kubica made it through all 24 speed tests. Mission accomplished, he made the most of the opportunity – discovering the limits and characteristics of the specialist stages.
Having made a strong start, Kubica was on course for a points-paying finish. Unfortunately, his hard work was undone through the second pass of Friday’s classic stages. Becoming engulfed in the soft snow banks, the Pole twice lost 10 minutes to the leaders having to free his Fiesta from their grasp. Yet determined to improve, he wasn’t going to let the elements stand in the way of his discovering all that the stages had to offer.
The popular Pole faced a new challenge over the final day of competition. Running as the first car on the road, Kubica had to contend with the rally’s most challenging conditions. Far removed from the event’s traditional hard ice and compacted snow, unpredictable grip and treacherous corners were the order of the day. Despite losing another three minutes with a third brush with the white barriers, the Pole instrumented a steady improvement in pace.
Bringing his Fiesta home, Kubica may not have achieved the points-paying position he was capable of, but the knowledge and experience gained will be invaluable in years to come.
Another fresh challenge now waits. Bidding farewell to Sweden’s cold climate, Kubica will next tackle the blistering heat and high-altitude of Rally Mexico’s gravel tracks in three weeks’ time.
Robert Kubica (24th) said:
“Finally we got to the end, that was our target but unfortunately without mistakes. I made a stupid mistake yesterday with an awkward landing after a jump. After that it became even more difficult. I made two mistakes which were a little bit crazy. By driving slowly and carefully I don’t drive like I should be and have more moments and more mistakes than when I’m driving fast.
“It’s been a really difficult event, and I’ve gained a lot of experience which can only help us in the future. I have to say that I was looking forward to finishing this rally, and we have done that. Of course not in the way we would have liked to, but a finish is a finish and the experience is the same.
“When we were in good shape and driving fast I think we were having a good rally, especially considering the conditions. We made mistakes, but I know the reasons for them so now we just need to reset and focus on Mexico.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I’m sure this is a rally that Robert [Kubica] would most likely want to forget, but it has been invaluable to his development. I know he will be disappointed, but in his defence this has been the most difficult Swedish rally that I can remember. To come here with no previous experience on snow, I think he’ll go away, reflect, and realise that he has learnt a lot from this weekend.”
DMACK Scores Double Podium Success In Sweden
Posted: February 25, 2014 2:04 PM
The Drive DMACK World Rally Team got off to a flying start in WRC 2 with a double podium finish today at the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship at Rally Sweden. Jari Ketomaa powered to runner-up place in the category after a final stage thriller, while Fredrik Ahlin followed him home in third to give DMACK two cars on the WRC 2 podium.
The pair used DMACK’s DMG-ICE winter tyre, equipped with 384 metal pins, to master the high-speed roads of Rally Sweden and take seven stage wins over the weekend. Its open V tread pattern makes it the ideal choice for loose snow and the studs help find the maximum grip by biting into the frozen roads typically found in Sweden.
But the conditions, which saw temperatures remain above freezing for most of the event, went against tradition, turning snow and ice into slush and exposing the loose gravel roads underneath.
DMACK’s studded tyre was tested to the limit with the extreme conditions on the second pass of some roads slowing drivers as they struggled to find grip. However, the opening day’s stages, which took place further north around the Norwegian border, were covered in snow and Finn Ketomaa set the early pace.
He powered the Autotek-run Ford Fiesta R5 through the opening super special test on Thursday evening in Karlstad to top the time-sheets and edge into an early lead. Despite being slowed by the exposed gravel on day two, he and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom settled into a solid second position and controlled the pace throughout the event. They were locked in a thrilling final day battle and lost out in the race to victory by just 2.3 seconds.
Local hero Swede Fredrik Ahlin also had a super drive to third in WRC 2. On his first outing on DMACK tyres, he quickly adapted to his CA1 Sport-prepared Fiesta R5 and set a trio of stunning fastest times on the opening loop of stages this morning. Ahlin belied is lack of experience to steadily increase his pace and fill the final podium spot.
Rally Sweden was once again based from Karlstad with most of the competitive action taking place around the service park at Hagfors. Thursday’s opening action reached north-east and crossed into Norway. The battles continued throughout the weekend closer to Hagfors with today’s final action covering 130km, including two runs over the Vargasen stage and the famous Colin’s Crest jump.
The Drive DMACK team now heads to Mexico where its second driver Estonian Ott Tänak will launch his WRC 2 campaign. In a separate programme this weekend, he set a series of stunning times at Rally Sweden to finish a fine fifth overall.
Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“We know our winter tyre performs well in snow and ice but the extreme conditions this weekend were extraordinary and really tested it. But despite the challenge it was a great result to have two cars on the podium and I have to say both crews did a remarkable job on the event. We switch to gravel now for the next few rounds and that’s certainly our strongest surface.”
A SOLID PERFORMANCE FROM M-SPORT IN SWEDEN
Posted: February 25, 2014 2:01 PM
Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans may be poles apart in terms of Rally Sweden experience, but both M-Sport World Rally Team drivers put in a solid performance at the FIA World Rally Championship’s only snow event of the year. Battling for the podium positions, Hirvonen ultimately had to settle for fourth. Unfortunately for Evans, an untimely off on the final stage cost him what could have been a points-paying ninth place.
Having been in the fight for the top positions, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen rejuvenated their relationship with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Able to battle with the leaders, the Finn has established a solid base on which to build as the season ensues.
Opting to be safe rather than sorry through the final speed tests, Hirvonen kept well clear of the snow banks which threatened to snare anyone who ventured even slightly off line. Keeping his head, the Finn was not going to be distracted from his objective of finishing the event – securing a strong result and continuing to build momentum for the season ahead.
Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt came tantalisingly close to achieving their aim of making it through all 24 stages unscathed. Having never contested a full-snow rally with Michelin’s studded tyres, the Welshman made the most of his debut – learning the rally and developing his skills as he went.
Building knowledge and confidence with each stage, Evans’ focussed on seconds per kilometre as opposed to an overall result and it was encouraging to see that his pace improved throughout the weekend – showcasing his speed with the occasional split to challenge the front-runners.
Regrettably, his hard work was to go unrewarded on the final speed test. Sliding wide in the treacherous conditions, his Fiesta RS WRC hit one of the predatory snow banks. With damage to the radiator there was no hope of making it back to service and the Welshman was forced to make an untimely retirement.
Regardless of the outcome, Evans has secured a wealth of experience in what were far from ideal Rally Sweden conditions – a fact which sets him up nicely for another new challenge when he crosses the Atlantic for Rally Mexico in three weeks’ time.
Mikko Hirvonen (4th) said:
“It’s been a tough rally, but I think that we did a good job in the end. After the first split, I backed off completely. We had so many moments in those first five kilometres and I understood straight away that if I wanted to fight at the top I would risk not finishing at all, and that wasn’t something I was willing to do this weekend.
“We’re not quite back up to the pace that I was hoping for, but it was not too bad. Some sections were really good so I think that gives us a good base to build on and hopefully when we get back to gravel we can be even faster.”
Elfyn Evans (DNF) said:
“We were achieving what we wanted from the event – improving the pace and on course for what would have been a good result for us – so it is really disappointing that it had to finish the way that it did.
“We were going into a corner that tightened, but unfortunately I didn’t have that marked in the notes. It wasn’t a very high-speed incident by all means, but the back end stepped out and after that there wasn’t a lot we could do to save it. We went off the road and damaged the radiator.
“It is extremely disappointing to end the event like this, but at least we got through the majority of the stages. It was a good event in terms of gaining experience, so now we just need to take that forward and move onto the next one.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It is great to see Mikko [Hirvonen] getting a solid result after the disappointment of Monte-Carlo. It was also good to see his pace getting back to what we are used to seeing from him and the extra point in the Power Stage shows that he still has it in him. He’s got a strong platform to build on now as we head into the gravel events.
“It was a real shame to see Elfyn [Evans] stopped on the final stage. He got caught out on a really fast, tricky section. He may not have finished the rally, but I am pleased that he has completed the majority of the distance. It’s what he needed to do to get the experience for the future and it is all part of his development. It is just a shame that we lost some valuable points.”
ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS
Ott Tänak put in a sensational performance on his return to the FIA World Rally Championship. Having last contested the snow-covered stages of Rally Sweden in 2012, the Estonian finished the event in fifth place having challenged the front runner through the early phases and claimed a stage win through the second pass of Kirkenær (SS5).
Also making a return to the championship following a year’s hiatus, Henning Solberg was back to his best. Entertaining the crowds throughout the weekend, the Norwegian secured an impressive stage win through SS11 to finish the event in a well-deserved seventh place.
Pontus Tidemand finished what is only his second outing in the Fiesta RS WRC in eighth place. The young Swede struggled to find the optimum set-up for the challenging conditions. But growing in confidence, the youngster was happy with the experience gained and did Sweden proud as the only home driver to take to the wheel of a world rally car.
Ott Tänak (5th) said:
“I don’t think we could have expected anything better. We had a good, clean rally with no problems and after a 12 month break it really was a fantastic result for us. This was like another first event for us and we were getting more and more confident as the rally went on. We were trying lots of different things – driving styles, set-ups – and Raigo [Molder, co-driver] and I really improved our relationship in the car. There were a lot of new things this weekend. We got a lot of good experience and it gives us a really good base to build on.”
Henning Solberg (7th) said:
“I am very, very happy with how this rally has gone. It’s been 12 months since I’ve driven a rally so to be able to challenge the top guys felt really good. And, we set some good times. And, we set a fastest stage time. Not so bad for a man in his 40s! Now, the plan is to go on to do more rallies, that is what I want, so we’ll be looking to try and get the budget together.”
Pontus Tidemand (8th) said:
“It’s been a difficult event with some really tricky conditions but I have to be happy to be here at the end. We’ve learnt a lot and were able to try a lot of different things with the car and the driving. It was good fun and great to see all the Swedish flags out on the stage, I really hope we did them proud.”
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Ott [Tänak] has had a really strong rally. To come back after 12 months away and be challenging with the guys who have so much more recent experience is fantastic and a great way for him to burst back onto the WRC scene. He has at least two more events in a world rally car so I’m really looking forward to seeing what more he can do.
“It’s always a pleasure to have Henning [Solberg] back in the team. He’s also put in an impressive performance with 12 months away from the sport. He’s challenged the best here this weekend, and I just hope that he can get the budget together to do some more rallies with us.
“It’s been a big learning curve for Pontus [Tidemand], He didn’t have the right set-up at the beginning of the rally, but he has learnt a lot in terms of working with the engineers to find the optimum settings. I’m pleased to see that he got his confidence back towards the end and I think that he can be pleased with the job he has done this weekend.”
There was another clean sweep of the podium for M-Sport in the WRC 2 category today. M-Sport Fiestas dominated the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier support series with a range of cars occupying the top-six positions.
The close fought battle went down to the wire, with Karl Kruuda stealing victory behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta S2000 by a slender 2.3 seconds on the final stage. Jari Ketoma’s Ford Fiesta R5 finished second with local-boy Fredrik Åhlin securing the third step of the podium in a similar Fiesta R5.
Having led much of the event at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RRC, Yazeed Al Rajhi had to settle for fourth with the Fiesta R5s of Yurri Protasov and Lorenzo Bertelli in fifth and sixth places respectively.
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s fantastic to see our cars dominating the WRC 2 category again. All of the drivers excelled in these difficult conditions and it’s also good to see such a range of our cars performing at the highest level. Karl [Kruuda] has proved that the [Ford] Fiesta S2000 remains a competitive contender and the other drivers have really underlined the performance of both the [Ford] Fiesta R5 and the [Ford] Fiesta RRC in this series.”
Posted: February 25, 2014 1:57 PM
Andrew Slattery & Shaun Forde – 208 R2 Report
Posted: February 6, 2014 2:06 PM
Round 6 of the Dunlop National Rally Championship took place in South Tipperary last weekend, based in the Clonmel Park Hotel,
3 special stages repeated 3 times in the Fethard area with a total competitive mileage of almost 90 kilometres.
Huge crowds turned out to spectate on the stages & in the Service area at Clonmel Racecourse.
The Tipperary duo, Andrew Slattery & Shaun Forde took a very cautious start to the event in their Peugeot 208 R2 after the accident on the Circuit of Kerry, Slattery reporting a time loss of almost 1 minute on ss1 due to the rear of the car being too soft & felt it was moving a lot.
Throughout the rest of the 6 competitive stages Slattery steadily improved his times & was happy to have a drama free run….. except for ss8 where the crew lost 15minutes when their Peugeot 208 R2 stopped 50 metres before the finish, a problem they were able to fix & finish the rally.
Next event for the Peugeot Ireland & Finol Oils/ Total Oil backed Peugeot 208 R2 is the Galway Summer Stages Rally based in Loughrea on September 1s
SOLBERG CHOOSES PIRELLI SOTTOZERO ICE FOR WORLD RALLY CAR RETURN IN SWEDEN
Posted: February 5, 2014 11:18 AM
Pirelli will equip a World Rally Car in the WRC for the first time since 2010 when Henning Solberg contests Rally Sweden next week in a privately-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC using the company’s Sottozero Ice tyre.
Rally Sweden, based in the city of Karlstad from February 5-8, is round two of the World Rally Championship and one of the toughest tests of the year for any tyre.
As well as Solberg, Pirelli will also support a variety of other customers, including several competitors in the feeder WRC 2 category. With a best result of fourth on Rally Sweden, Solberg is one of the country’s established stars – even though he has not competed on a WRC event for 12 months.
“I’m really pleased to be on Pirelli and to start this new chapter. I have always had a fantastic feeling with Pirelli tyres. Like many drivers have said, they are very precise tyres that give you a lot of control and I hope they will give me an advantage in Sweden. In all my career I’ve never really been able to do any testing, but with a Pirelli tyre you can jump in the car and be fast straight away. I’ve not driven in a year so I’m a little bit rusty, but I think I have the best tyres here. I’m really looking forward to it.”
In order to tackle the specialised stages, which consist of layers of snow and ice on top of fast gravel tracks, drivers will rely on specially studded tyres that bite into the loose surface to generate grip.
In total there are 380 studs with Tungsten tips, protruding seven millimetres, which are locked into the tyre (preventing stud loss) in a unique vulcanisation process patented by Pirelli. The tyre comes in 205/65-15 size, so that it can be mounted on the same rim as used for gravel tyres: a compromise between the traditional narrow shape of a snow tyre and the dimensions of the gravel rim. Drivers will face 329 competitive kilometres, over 24 special stages.
This brings the Sottozero Ice even closer to Pirelli’s road car tyres, which all benefit from the lessons learned in competition. Unlike Pirelli’s other competition tyres, the Sottozero Ice has to cope with temperatures that often drop as low as minus 30 degrees centigrade.
As well as 41-year-old Solberg, Pirelli’s other drivers in Sweden include Lorenzo Bertelli (second in WRC2 on his Monte Carlo debut in a Ford Fiesta R5), Norwegian Anders Grondal (Subaru Impreza), Valeriy Gorban (Mini S2000), Jourdan Serderidis (Ford Fiesta R5), Gianluca Linari (Subaru Impreza), Fabio Frisiero (Peugeot 207 S2000) and Joan Font (Mitsubishi Lancer).
The WRC and WRC2 drivers are allowed 24 tyres for the whole rally under the latest regulations, plus four for the shakedown. Only one pattern and compound is allowed for Sweden.
Pirelli’s senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga said:
“Sweden is only the second rally of our return, with the focus this year being on customer competition, but it’s one of the toughest ones that we face all year. We also see our tyres on a World Rally Car for the first time, with the privately-run Ford of Henning Solberg. After a promising start in Monte Carlo, with a podium result in WRC2 and a win in the production category, we’re hoping for more success in Sweden. The Sottozero Ice tyres have been developed specifically to offer complete control even on the most slippery surfaces, and thanks to our patented production process, the 380 studs remain in place over the entire length of the stage, giving the drivers better consistency of grip and therefore confidence.”
The Icemen Cometh – Volkswagen gunning for win number two in Sweden
Posted: February 5, 2014 11:16 AM
Back at the scene of the emotional first triumph: Volkswagen lines up at the Rally Sweden brimming with confidence and fully motivated to continue its run of success. From 05 to 09 February, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) will take on classic special stages like “Fredriksberg” and “Rämmen”, as well as tacking the iconic “Colin’s Crest” jump. Sideways over ice and snow and through dense forests at an average speed of 110 km/h – you only get that at the Rally Sweden, the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Not only does Volkswagen arrive with its three Polo R WRCs in Karlstad as defending champion in the Driver, Co-Driver and Manufacturer competitions, but also as the leader in all three categories in the WRC.
“Icy temperatures of ten, even 20 degrees below freezing – and yet everyone here at Volkswagen still gets a warm feeling in their heart when we think about Sweden,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “This is where we won our first WRC rally with the Polo, which came as a complete shock to us all back then. You never forget emotional moments like those. The fact that we start the rally here this year as World Championship leaders and defending champions means we are the team to beat right from the word go, but it also provides our drivers, co-drivers, engineers and mechanics with twice the motivation. The Rally Sweden is very special, as it is the only rally on the WRC calendar held entirely on ice and snow. There is just one option when it comes to tyre selection, so tactics do not come into it. Right from the start it is all about one thing: full throttle. We are really looking forward to it.”
Promising signs for Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen: happy stomping ground for the Volkswagen boys
He is the only non-Nordic driver to win both the Rally Sweden and the Rally Finland in one season: Sébastien Ogier. And the other two drivers in Volkswagen’s flying trio are indeed Norsemen: Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. From a statistic point of view, this is the perfect combination going into the Rally Sweden. When Ogier won the event in Sweden in 2013, he became only the second central European to do so – following in the footsteps of nine-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb. That makes Ogier the only current WRC driver from outside of Northern Europe to have won here in the past. The statistics also speak in favour of a success for Latvala: the Finn won the rally around the Karlstad region in 2008 and 2012. And Mikkelsen, at the wheel of the third Polo R WRC, also feels right at home in Sweden. In 2008, he caught the eye with an excellent fifth place overall in a privately run Ford. In 2012, whilst driving for Volkswagen, he finished runner-up in the S2000. Only a certain Sébastien Ogier was quicker back then. The Rally Sweden is also something of a home race for Mikkelsen – the second round of the 2014 WRC twice takes a detour into his native Norway. The “Torsby” special stage is held over the border, ending twice in the spectacular ski stadium in the town of the same name.
Plenty of snow and ice, a bit of Norway, and Colin’s Crest
A princely opening followed by a real “elk test”: Scandinavian anomalies await last year’s winners Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and their team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula when they line up at the Rally Sweden – the second round of the 2014 season, after last month’s Rally Monte Carlo. The Rally Sweden, with its headquarters in Karlstad and Service Park about 85 kilometres away in Hagfors, takes the competitors on a 1,583.33-kilometre route, with 323.54 kilometres against the clock spread out over 24 special stages.
This year’s Rally Sweden opens on Wednesday evening with a spectator stage, which features head-to-head duels between two cars on Karlstad’s horse racing track. One iconic spot, and a crowd-puller year after year, is the unofficial jump-off at “Colin’s Crest” – named after former World Champion Colin McRae. The crew that jumps the furthest in their World Rally Car on Saturday is honoured with the “Colin’s Crest Award”. The winner will be crowned in Karlstad on Saturday evening, following the afternoon’s closing Power Stage in Värmullsåsen.
The World Rally Championship only throws up a rally that is contested solely on ice and snow once every twelve months. It is also one of the fastest of the season. Only at the asphalt rallies and in Finland do the competitors achieve higher average speeds. The walls of snow at the side of the special stages are both a blessing and a curse. They frequently prevent more serious crashes when drivers make mistakes, but their frosty rigidity can also bring a rally to a premature end.
The Volkswagen drivers are armed with a special tool, just in case – a snow shovel. The handy spade in the boot of the 315-hp World Rally Car from Wolfsburg was used during the manufacturer’s three “Dakar” victories in the Race Touareg 2 and 3 from 2009 to 2011.
Fond memories: Sweden – where the WRC dream came true
Although it may only have been on the list of things to do in the Polo R WRC’s second season in the World Rally Championship, the first victory at a WRC rally came as soon as its second competitive outing. At 14:43 and 54 seconds on 10th February 2013, the Volkswagen service in Hagfors, Sweden, was transformed into a seething mass of frenzied celebrations – Volkswagen had just claimed its first WRC victory with the Polo, defeating both the greatest rally driver and the most successful rally team of all time – Sébastien Loeb and Citroën – in the process. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were worthy winners, producing a historic display on many levels. The tables have turned for Volkswagen in 2014: rather than shocking the favourites, the team from Wolfsburg now arrives in Northern Europe as the hot favourite. Living up to this billing promises to be a real test for Volkswagen’s World Championship winning team – particularly given the desire for success among its rivals at Citroën, Ford and Hyundai.
Quotes ahead of the Rally Sweden
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“The Rally Sweden is one of my favourite rallies on the calendar. Last year, we claimed the first win for Volkswagen here, following a great duel with Sébastien Loeb. That was probably the best rally of my career so far. Like Loeb, we pushed ourselves to the very limit the entire time, and had to give 100 per cent every minute. It paid off in the end though, as we emerged from that extreme challenge victorious. The roles are reversed somewhat in 2014. We are now the team that everyone wants to beat. Scandinavians are traditionally hard to beat here. ‘Southern Europeans’ have only triumphed here twice in the past. As such, I will certainly have one eye on Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Østberg at Citroën, but above all I will be watching out for my two team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. It will definitely not be easy, but I would love to win here again.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am hugely looking forward to Sweden, the snow and the fast straights. Last year I was still just getting used to the Polo R WRC and we did not have the perfect set-up for the car. This year we know the car really well and I feel right at home behind the wheel. Unlike the last two years, I am hardly under any pressure this time around, and travel to Sweden totally relaxed, having already put myself in a good position with fifth place at the ‘Monte’. If you are able to enjoy a rally, then you are far more likely to succeed. I have my sights set on at least a podium. Not a lot has changed at the Rally Sweden this year. However, there is one change compared to last year’s event: the ‘Hara’ special stage on Saturday. It is a short, quick special stage, which last featured on the itinerary back in 2007 – a fantastic route.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I am looking to improve in 2014, and to make it onto the podium now and then. For me, the Rally Sweden is a very important rally every year, as I feel right at home there. I also hope that the second year will be easier. I am now able to continue working with my guys from last year, which allows us to improve our work. Driving on ice and snow is something that comes naturally to me, as I grew up with it. I hope we will have plenty of snow this year. The Rally Sweden’s little detour into my native Norway is obviously rather special for me. Maybe a few of my fellow Norwegians will have their fingers crossed for me on ‘Torsby’. Whatever happens, I do not need to worry about a lack of support at the Rally Sweden. Here’s hoping for a big result.”
Studs And Snow As Drive DMACK Launches Challenge
Posted: February 5, 2014 11:12 AM
DMACK will kick off its official WRC 2 campaign next week with one of the most technically demanding events on the calendar. Jari Ketomaa will head the Drive DMACK World Rally Team on its challenge for WRC 2 victory when Rally Sweden, the only full snow event of the season, blasts into action on Wednesday in Karlstad.
The two-car Drive DMACK team will field Finn Ketomaa and Estonian Ott Tänak in a pair of Autotek-run Ford Fiesta R5s. While Ketomaa lines up in Sweden beside co-driver Kaj Lindstrom, Tänak will begin his WRC 2 season in Mexico.
Rally Sweden’s high-speed, snow-covered frozen roads deliver a real challenge for tyre manufacturers. DMACK tyres are equipped with 384 metal pins to extract every ounce of grip from the ice and frozen gravel – but are also designed to cope with harsh, loose gravel when the stages traditionally rut on second pass.
DMACK has upgraded its 2014 snow tyre, building on the success and experience from sealing overall victory on last season’s Rally Liepaja-Ventspils – a round of the FIA European Rally Championship. It hopes the improved construction and an all-new hardened metal pin stud will lift performance and aid stud retention.
The DMG-ICE tyre still features the unique open V tread pattern and retains DMACK’s own in-house T-bar studding system which has transformed stud performance. Each metal pin is 20mm long and protrudes 6.8mm to bite into the frozen forest roads and deliver astonishing levels of grip in the winter wilderness.
Competitors are allowed to use a maximum of 28 tyres during the three-day event which takes them across the border into Norway.
DMACK will equip a trio of Scandinavian drivers in Fiesta R5 cars. Alongside Ketomaa is fellow Finn Kristian Sohlberg and Swedish star Fredrik Ahlin.
Rally Sweden has been kind to DMACK in the past. In 2011, on its very first WRC event, DMACK took victory in the Production WRC category with Martin Semerad.
With Rally HQ at its traditional base in Karlstad, most of the rally takes place around the central service area at Hagfors airfield taking in similar stages to last year. After Wednesday evening’s start in Karlstad, crews contest the familiar super special stage around the town’s trotting track.
Thursday’s real action takes in the cross-border stages into Norway but caution is needed as the full loop of six stages is tackled without service. Friday features famous tests to the east of Hagfors with a loop of four stages, including Fredriksberg and the popular Hagfors Sprint, completed twice.
Saturday’s final action is a tough way to end the rally with over 140km of snowy speed including two runs over the Vargasen stage – the longest of the event at 24.63km. It boasts the famous Colin’s Crest where there’s a trophy for the longest jump.
Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“For a tyre manufacturer, Sweden is one of the most technical events with tyre pattern, compound, construction, stud composition and length all playing a role in the overall performance. We’ve always scored strong results on snow and have continued to evolve and build on that success. I’m also excited to debut the Drive DMACK team and the focus really is to win WRC 2 this year with our strong driver line-up.”
VIDEO: Rally Sweden Preview - Hyundai Shell WRT 2014
Posted: February 4, 2014 9:06 PM
SNOW, STUDS AND SPECTACLE: M-SPORT SIGHT SWEDISH SUCCESS
Posted: February 4, 2014 9:04 PM
As the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) only true winter event, Rally Sweden offers a unique challenge. Snow-covered stages and studded tyres provide one of the most spectacular events of the year and – having traditionally performed well at the Swedish fixture – M-Sport has its sights firmly set on further success.
Based in the rally-rich heart of Värmland, the region has benefited from significant snow-fall of late, which could well signal the return of some classic winter rallying.
Provided the snow cover remains good, Rally Sweden might surprise. Whereas other loose-surface events deliver unpredictable grip-levels, traction on snow is relatively high. With temperatures well below zero, Michelin’s X-ICE NORTH 2 tyres bite through the snow to capture grip on the hard ice below – affecting a smooth ride at breath-taking speeds.
But should the stages be covered with soft snow and little ice, the studs tear up the road surface leaving little room for error – exposed gravel threatening to damage the steel-tips and resulting in a considerable loss of traction.
Of course it’s not just tyres which are adapted to cope with the cold climate. The Ford Fiesta RS WRCs are fitted with extra protection to guard against the studded tyres and there are a few driver comforts to ensure the crews can perform to the best of their ability. The cars are fitted with heaters and the drivers and co-drivers benefit from such little luxuries as heated boots and thicker soled shoes.
One driver who knows what it takes to overcome the challenges thrown up by this specialist event is Mikko Hirvonen. He and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen have contested the rally on ten previous occasions – making the podium no fewer than five times and winning the event with Ford and M-Sport in both 2010 and 2011. Their 2011 victory came on the Fiesta RS WRC’s maiden outing. In fact, the Fiesta claimed a clean-sweep of the podium that year – making it one of rallying’s most successful WRC debuts.
As one of Scandinavia’s most celebrated drivers, the art of winter rallying comes naturally to the Finn who first learnt to drive whilst sitting on his father’s knee on a frozen lake. Needless to say, Hirvonen’s season starts here and he will be looking towards a podium finish.
By contrast, next week will mark Elfyn Evans’ first venture to Sweden’s snow-covered stages. The Welshman has never contested a snow rally with studded tyres, but with the knowledge and guidance of his experienced team mate, he will be well prepared for the challenges ahead.
Partnered by co-driver Daniel Barritt, the pairing will be looking to gain as much knowledge and experience of the unfamiliar surface as possible. With the goal of making it through all 24 stages unscathed, next week provides another perfect opportunity for Evans to hone his skills and continue his development as one of the championship’s most promising up-and-coming young talents.
Mikko Hirvonen said:
“We’ve just completed a really good test and I’m feeling good. We knew from past experience that the Fiesta [RS WRC] would be really strong in the high-speed sections, and it was great to see that I had that same good feeling straight away.
“Rally Sweden is extra fun when it’s really cold and there is a lot of snow – there’s nothing better than bouncing your car off the compacted snow banks at high speed. Although the region has had some good snow fall recently, there might not be much ice and that could be tricky. It means that there will be a lot of gravel coming through the snow which makes tyre management really important.
“I’ve won this rally twice before, but I wouldn’t say that there was much of a secret to doing well here. It used to favour the Scandinavians, but I think last year proved that that is no longer the case and anyone can be quick here.
“The main thing to remember is to really commit to the stages. Especially in the high-speed sections, you need the confidence to go flat-out. It’s one of those events where a driver needs to really attack, but in the narrow sections you also have to be very precise. There’s a very narrow line that forms, and if you venture off that line you can easily find yourself in trouble.
“I really hope that we can get back to our best next week and be challenging for the top positions. Monte-Carlo was a really tricky event for us, so now I’m really looking forward to Sweden where I think we can be competitive. We’re certainly determined to show what we can do.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“This will be my first time driving a proper snow rally with full studded tyres, but I’m feeling good about the challenges ahead. We’ve had a really good test which has helped a lot with the confidence, but obviously the rally itself will be a completely different experience. Even the recce will be new to us – discovering how to best prepare the notes for these kinds of conditions.
“I think that the type of snow we encounter will be key. At the moment, it looks like it’s going to be fairly mild in Värmland so that could make it quite tricky and we will need to ensure that we take care to look after the studded tyres. We just need to take everything as it comes, one stage at a time, and gain as much experience as possible.
“Of course Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jarmo [Lehtinen] are well versed when it comes to this event. They have a lot of experience on snow and have won the rally twice already so we’ll be looking to harness their experience as much as we can. They’ve already been really helpful. After Monte and during this week’s test we have exchanged a lot of questions. Their advice will be invaluable to us next week, and I’m sure they’ll continue to share their knowledge throughout the event.”
ADDITIONAL M-SPORT CREWS
M-Sport developed machinery can boast 45 per cent of next week’s Rally Sweden entry. Impressively, the Cumbrian outfit has also amassed 53 per cent of the WRC 2 category and 53 per cent of the FIA World Rally Championship’s highest class with nine Ford Fiesta RS WRC’s lining up for the start at Karlstad’s famous Färjestad Trotting course.
Highlighting the effectiveness of Ford and M-Sport’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’, the past three FIA WRC Academy and Junior WRC champions will all take to M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta. Having excelled behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R2, the talented trio are now ready to progress their respective careers within the M-Sport fold.
As the only Swede to contest his home event in a world rally car, Pontus Tidemand powered to an impressive victory of over a minute and a half at last week’s Mountain Rally in Norway. Providing the perfect confidence boost, the youngster – who hails from near-by Charlottenberg – will be ready to see the Swedish flags flying high in Värmland.
Of course Tidemand is not the only local hero to take to the wheel of a Fiesta next week as both Fredrik Åhlin and Per-Arne Sääv take to M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta R5.
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“To see so many [Ford] Fiestas on the entry list is absolutely fantastic. Together with Ford, M-Sport has constructed an effective ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ and nowhere is that more apparent than at next week’s Rally Sweden.
“We have some impressive young drivers behind the wheel of M-Sport cars, but most importantly, all three FIA WRC Academy and Junior WRC champions will be behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RS WRC – progressing their respective careers at rallying’s highest level.
“It’s also great to see a local hero behind the wheel of one of our Fiesta RS WRCs. As the only Swedish driver to take to a world rally car, I am sure that the Swedish flags will be out in support of Pontus [Tidemand]. He had a very impressive debut here last year, and considering the amount of effort and determination he has put into his preparation, I hope he will have a great rally, worthy of his considerable talent.”
A NEW CHALLENGE: KUBICA PREPARES FOR SWEDISH SNOW
Posted: February 4, 2014 9:03 PM
Following a sensational start to their 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) campaign, Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak are back behind the wheel of their RK M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the season’s traditional winter fixture – Rally Sweden.
Having led Rallye Monte-Carlo by over half a minute come the end of SS2, Kubica has already made his mark on rallying’s highest league, but as the team venture to the snow-covered region of Värmland, a new challenge lies in wait.
Snow is an unfamiliar surface for the Formula One race winner, and if local forecasts are anything to go by, there will be plenty of it next week. Determined as always, the Pole will conduct a thorough two-day test as he gets to grips with the art of winter rallying, but his ultimate goal will be to gain the vital knowledge and experience which driving in this winter wonderland demands.
Based in the heart of Sweden’s rally-rich territory, crews have to contend with temperatures as low as -25°C which sees both man and machine pushed to the limit. To best cope with these conditions, the rally cars are clad with Michelin’s skinny winter tyres – the X-ICE NORTH 2 – which are each fitted with over 380 tungsten-tipped studs and cut through the soft snow to capture grip on the hard ice below.
The Fiesta RS WRC is protected against the steel-tips and the crew benefit from the luxury of heated boots and a heated Fiesta so that they can be in peak condition when the time comes to power through the ice and snow.
Drivers can also ‘lean’ their cars against the compacted snow banks as a guide through the super-quick stages, but ‘lean’ too hard and they risk losing precious minutes having to dig themselves free of the white barriers.
Looking forward to the challenges ahead, Kubica will gain a wealth of experience as he contests his first full-snow rally – continuing his development and enhancing his skills as one of rallying’s most exciting up-and-coming talents.
Robert Kubica said:
"This is my first ever start on a full-snow event and my first participation at Rally Sweden. Honestly speaking, I don't know what to expect, but the snow-covered stages will certainly provide a new and exciting challenge.
“Given my unfamiliarity of the surface, we know that this will be a difficult event. Our priority is to concentrate on learning the new stages and conditions, but I am really looking forward to the rally and the new challenges that lay in wait.”
Posted: February 2, 2014 4:00 PM
The route of Rally Sweden runs on both sides of the border between Sweden and Norway. The Norwegian Mads Østberg and the Swede Jonas Andersson will therefore both be competing at home at the only winter rally on this year’s calendar.
The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s second DS3 WRC will be driven by Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle. The team holds second place in the Manufacturers’ World Championship standings after Monte-Carlo.
Khalid Al-Qassimi kicks off his season alongside new co-driver Chris Patterson in a third Citroën DS3 WRC.
CITROËN AND RALLY SWEDEN: A HISTORIC WIN…
Between 1950 and 2003, only Swedish and Finnish drivers won on the snow-covered roads of Rally Sweden. In 2004, Citroën, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena wrote one of the first great chapters in their incredible story in the WRC.
Back in 2004, the World Championship-winning team entered two Citroën Xsara WRCs for Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti. Although the Spanish pair settled for fifth position at the end, the Franco-Monegasque crew beat the Nordic drivers on their favourite surface, finishing over forty seconds ahead of Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen!
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen have since finished as runners-up five times for Citroën.
384 SPIKES TO CUT THROUGH THE ICE
The first time that Rally Sweden was contested as part of the World Championship, studded tyres were banned! Since then, the regulations have changed significantly. In 1986, the Citroën BX 4TC driven by Jean-Claude Andruet to sixth overall was fitted with Michelin tyres featuring around 600 pyramid-shaped spikes.
Nowadays, Rally Sweden is contested using adapted versions of “gravel” tyres, fitted with 384 spikes that protrude by 6.5 millimetres. The rest is down to the set-up of the car, explained Didier Clément, Chief Operations Engineer for the DS3 WRCs: “It’s the different road surface conditions that make life complicated for the technical team. If you drive on fresh snow, the spikes have trouble getting any bite and the car tends to weave around on the road. Sheer ice is the ideal surface, with exceptional grip. The lines are very precise and braking is very effective. On frozen gravel and dirt, the spikes break and the tyres are no longer effective.”
In adjusting the differentials and suspension, the Citroën Racing technicians have an almost unlimited number of combinations they can use to offer their drivers the best set-up:
“The DS3 WRC is very sensitive to changes,” added Didier Clément. “We need to do a lot of work before the rally to prepare for all eventualities. We are used to saying that this rally is won and lost during testing. You need to define a consistent set-up, so that the drivers can go for it right from the word go. On such a quick course, it is very difficult to make up a gap of more than a dozen seconds.”
SUCCESSFUL FIRST TESTS FOR MADS ØSTBERG
Back in 2006, a young 18 year-old driver made his WRC debut at Rally Sweden… Since then, Mads Østberg has in particular racked up three podium finishes at this round in the last three years.
“I was a little afraid before starting my first rally in the WRC,” recalled Mads. “To be honest, I hadn‘t driven in that many events before I found myself in the big time. But I just had to learn as I went along, because I was determined to get to the top level. It is important to have dreams… I have always set myself goals. I have achieved some of them, but there are some others I have yet to achieve!
After finishing fourth in Monaco, the Norwegian took part in the Mountain Rally, an event in his national championship: “It was a good opportunity to learn about the car, get used to it and work with the WRC winter tyres. It was a bit like preparation for the two days of testing scheduled before the rally.”
Having finished second in 2011, third in 2012 and 2013, great things are expected of Mads Østberg by his supporters in Sweden and Norway: “It’s one of the most important races of our season. The aim is to finish on the podium. If everything goes well, I want to try and fight for the win. We’ll have a lot of fans cheering us on alongside the roads. And although I am very focussed on my racing line, I still notice our fans waving the Norwegian and Swedish flags!”
A TOTALLY NEW EXPERIENCE FOR KRIS MEEKE
Fresh from their podium finish at Rallye Monte-Carlo, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle expect another big challenge in Sweden. In fact, the British crew have the daunting task of tackling Rally Sweden for the first time ever. “I’ve never competed on any rally on snow,” admitted Kris. “It will be a new experience for me. At least the team know what kind of difficulties I will be up against. I am going to concentrate on learning and forget about the actual result.”
“I know I’m quick on tarmac and gravel, but I have no real idea about how I’ll manage on snow,” continued the Northern Irishman. “During testing, I’ll sit next to Mads to watch how he drives. And then it’ll be down to me to learn about everything: the car, the tyres, and so on. Our rivals have a lot more experience than we do. They will undoubtedly go very fast. I’ll just have to put that out of my mind so I can learn and progress at my own pace. And above all, avoid making any mistakes.”
FIRST APPEARANCE THIS SEASON FOR KHALID AL QASSIMI
This year, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson have decided to make the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) their main objective. However, the Abu Dhabi will also be competing in four rounds of the WRC. His season kicks off in Sweden in conditions that will be diametrically opposed to those of his native Abu Dhabi. And yet he has some fond memories from the first of his four appearances in Karlstad: “I wasn’t really happy with my performances. I therefore decided to push myself to the limit and set myself the challenge of taking Colin’s Crest flat out. And believe it or not, I won the prize for the longest jump that year!”
“I haven’t driven the Citroën DS3 WRC since last year’s Rally de España,” he continued. “I’m pleased to be able to call upon the experience of Chris Patterson this season. He will be a real asset in helping me to secure some good results.”
BETWEEN SWEDEN AND NORWAY
Over four days, the competitors must cover a total of 1,583 kilometres. 24 special stages are set to be completed, serving up a total of 324 kilometres of timed sections. The rally will get underway in Karlstad on Wednesday, 5 February at 8.04pm with a 1.9km-long super special stage held on the city’s racecourse.
The next day, the crews set off from Karlstad on an 85 kilometre-long road section taking them to the Hagfors service park. After a fifteen-minute service period, the competitors will cross the border into Norway. On their way, they will tackle a brand new stage, due to finish in Torsby ski stadium (7.03km). The rest of the rally will be staged on the other side of the border, with two loops on Kirkener (7.16km) and Finnskogen (16.82km), just the same as last year. There will be no service period until the crews return to Hagfors at the end of the leg, after a second night time run on Torsby.
On Friday, the action will take place to the east of Hagfors on stages used in 2013: Lesjöfors (15km), Fredriksberg (18.15km), Rämmen (22.76km) and Hagfors Sprint (1.87km). A thirty-minute service period will divide the day into two parts. After another 45-minute break in Hagfors, the crews will head back 85 kilometres to the south for a second run on Karlstad racecourse (1.9km) from 7pm onwards.
The final leg will be held on roads around Hagfors with two loops on stages that are well known to mainstays of the WRC. Racing will resume shortly before sunrise on Hara (11.32km). This will be followed by the Torntop (19.26km), Vargasen (24.63km) and Varmullsasen (15.87km) tests. The second run on Varmullsasen will be the Power Stage.
The rally is scheduled to finish on Saturday in the centre of Karlstad, from 5.27pm.
Posted: January 15, 2014 10:51 AM
Craig Breen makes his WRC debut at Rally Sweden
Posted: January 4, 2014 10:36 PM
European Rally Championship title contender and SWRC World Champion 2012, Craig Breen will make his WRC car debut in a Ford Fiesta WRC at Rally Sweden on 5th-8th February.
23 year old Irish Peugeot Rally Academy driver finished 2013 third in the ERC series and is aiming to win the European title this year with the new Peugeot 208 T16. The new car will be homologated in March.
Seeing the uniqueness of this opportunity, Peugeot Sport have very kindly given Craig the chance to make his debut at Rallyings highest level.
“Firstly I am very grateful to Peugeot Sport for allowing me to take this opportunity to participate in Rally Sweden. We are purely focused on the ERC this year, and the much anticipated debut of the 208 T16 in March. However, it goes without saying that a chance to drive in the WRC is something that we couldn't turn down. This opportunity is something that I have dreamed of obtaining since I was a young boy, so to finally have my chance is something I am really excited about. This year will also see the introduction of a new co- driver for me in the form of Scott Martin. Scott and I have already tested together, and we are anxiously awaiting the start of our Peugeot Rally Academy program
Peugeot Sport will announce Craig’s Peugeot Rally Academy program at a later date.
Rally Guide Available / Event Website
Posted: November 25, 2013 2:10 PM