Swedish Rally – Stobart preview
- 5th February 2007, 8:32am
The rally has always been a spectacle for WRC fans. The development of studded snow tyres over the years now allows crews to power through stages at average speeds of well over 100km/h. Drivers use frozen snow banks to bounce their cars back onto the road and guide them around tricky corners, its not uncommon to see a few dents on rear panels of most cars.
Set in the County of Värmland, stages take place in the snow covered regions of Hagfors and Karlstad in a very dry cold climate with temperatures between zero and minus-20 degrees Celsius. While most stages take place in Hagfors, this year the city of Karlstad has introduced a brand new purpose built super special stage which includes a 30-meter jump and with top speeds of 160km/h, the synchronized 1886-meter parallel track will offer fans a breathtaking view of what rallying is all about.
Uddeholm Swedish Rally 2007 covers 341km of competitive distance in 20 special stages and with 34.8 percent of fresh competitive route it will offer new challenges to all 63 drivers competing in the snow next week; 22 of which are WRC entrants. Sweden is currently the longest rally in the championship in terms of total distance and not since Telstra Rally Australia in 2003, has there been a longer round in overall length.
With five Norwegian Rally Championships under his belt, Solberg will be looking for some quick times on a surface he grew up on. Competing in the event since 2000 the Norwegian will be looking to better his best result of fifth in 2005. Pre-event testing will help his performance in the next two rallies as the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team search for their first podium in the WRC.
After damaging his Ford Focus RS in Monte Carlo, Latvala too, will look at setting some fast times as he battles the roads for the third time in his career. With the car from Monte out of action, the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team mechanics have been frantically working to prepare the car, which was originally destined to begin its season in Mexico, for Latvala’s attack on Sweden.
For British youngster Matthew Wilson this will be his second outing to the Uddeholm Swedish Rally and his first event as a 20-year-old. Both Wilson and co-driver, Michael Orr, celebrated birthdays during January and return to the event slightly older but much wiser than their first attempt together last year. Wilson's pace improved well on the season-opening Rallye Monte Carlo as he achieved the highest position of all the Stobart team drivers, but he knows the forthcoming events in Sweden and Norway will help him gain valuable knowledge of the diverse and difficult roads the championship has to offer. 2006 was the only year Wilson competed in the rally, finishing 14th overall.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“The aim for Sweden is to try and improve my personal performance from last year, I’m not really aiming for a specific result. I was happy with how Monte Carlo went as I was much closer to the winner in terms of seconds per kilometre than last year and this is what I want to concentrate on for 2007. It makes more sense to try and reach a high performance level, get closer to the drivers at the top, than aim for a specific finishing position on each event. For sure I will benefit from Henning’s help with these snow events and I know I can get some advice from him on car set-up for both Sweden and Norway. We had a fairly clean run in Sweden last year and I really want to concentrate on improving my pace and consistency.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“I am really looking forward to Sweden, snow rallies are normally very good for me and, coming from Finland, I really like driving on snow. I have competed on this rally twice before, but only once in a WRC car. This was 2005 when I used a Corolla and we finished the rally in 15th position. My championship hasn’t got off to a good start though and it would be nice to have a good result in Sweden. I have to learn from my accident in Monte Carlo, I want to drive fast in Sweden but also I need to keep a safety margin as well.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“I have forgotten about Monte Carlo and now I am concentrating on Sweden and Norway. I am really looking forward to Sweden and I intend to push hard from the start, and am aiming for a podium position. Last year I got up as high as fifth position before we had a big roll, and filled the car with snow! I think with this package I have now, with the car and the tyres, I can even improve on this position. There are always many spectators from Norway over at the rally at Sweden and seeing them all with their flags, will really help to push me on and go harder. I can’t wait to start the rally.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Jari-Matti really must finish in Sweden after what happened in Monte Carlo and I think if he does, then he will go well in Norway the following weekend. This also applies to Matthew, his pace improved well in Monte Carlo compared to 2006, and as long as he continues to do this and finish events then I am happy. Sweden and Norway are very important for Henning, he has a pre-rally test, which will help, and I expect him to go well on the snow events. He is a different person after Monte Carlo and is very determined. We are running seven cars in Sweden and we seem to have everything well covered. In the old days it would be hard to do this, but now that there is more structure to the events it is possible; we can also move personnel about, should there be any problems.”
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