Tracks in the snow: VW Rally Sweden preview
- 4th February 2014, 2:38am
VW PREVIEW: Rally Sweden is the only snow-based event in the WRC calendar.
The special stage over the renowned Col de Turini had to be abandoned during Rally Monte Carlo in mid-January after not only an advance car, but also and even a four-wheel drive rally car got stuck in fresh snow. This sort of problem is highly unlikely in the upcoming Rally Sweden, as masses of snow are par for the course there.
“We use different tyres in Sweden to what we use in the ‘Monte’. In particular, the spikes we use are much longer, and this helps a World Rally Car to cope with much deeper snow,” explains Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2). Hailing from Finland, Latvala feels right at home in the arctic conditions and has already won Rally Sweden twice, in 2008 and 2012.
Last year, it was his teammate Sébastien Ogier of all people who stymied his hopes of securing his third victory. Ogier’s win (now driving Polo R WRC #1) marked the first rally victory for the WRC newcomers Volkswagen – in just the second rally of the season. “Rally Sweden is one of my favourite events in the calendar,” says the world champion from France, who won the season opener in Monte Carlo and who will therefore travel to Sweden as the current overall leader. “We engaged in a great duel with Sébastien Loeb last year. It was probably the best rally of my career so far.”
Ogier and Latvala are naturally among the favourites for a win this year too. The young Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) should also not be underestimated. Coming from Norway, he grew up in the home of snow-based rallies and is hoping to have the advantage of a relatively high starting position in the first stage. The starting order is based on the entrants’ WRC rankings – so setting out on fresh snow is a disadvantage for the current leader Ogier. Unlike his teammates Latvala (starting position three) and Mikkelsen (six), he won’t have any competitors driving in front of him to clear the ideal line for him.
Rally Sweden gets under way at 20:04 on Wednesday, with a super special stage on the racecourse in Karlstad. The action will then move to an airfield in Hagfors, some 80 kilometres to the north of Karlstad, where the service park is set up. In all, Rally Sweden comprises 24 special stages over a distance of 324 kilometres, and will finish on Saturday afternoon (17:24).
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.”
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’.”
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