DRIVERS tackle a white-knuckle 200 kilometres-per-hour race through a winter wonderland when the FIA World Rally Championship heads to Rally Sweden for round two next weekend.
After the ice and slush of the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, the world’s most challenging motorsport series shifts 2000 km north to the frozen forests of Scandinavia and one of the fastest rallies of the year.
The extreme conditions mean the Swedish pundits can take little guidance from Monte-Carlo, where Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb dominated, Volkswagen claimed a sensational second place on debut with driver Sebastien Ogier and Ford fizzled.
In Sweden, Ford has won the past six events. Citroen hasn’t won since 2004, when Sebastien Loeb extraordinarily became the only non-Scandinavian driver to stand atop the podium in the event’s 61-year history.
Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala each scored two of the past four Rally Swedens while Ford teammates, but predictions for next weekend are complicated because Mikko now drives for Citroen and Jari-Matti for Volkswagen.
The Ford M-Sport squad is lighter on experience but includes three young drivers who have grown up with plenty of snow under their wheels, Mads Ostberg, of Norway, Evgeny Novikov, from Russia and fast Finn Jari Ketomaa.
Ostberg has finished on the podium in Sweden twice in the past two years. Novikov was fifth there last year and after an excellent run on Rallye Monte-Carlo could well be chasing a podium in his Ford Fiesta.
Ketomaa will start Sweden less than one week after taking victory on a European Rally Championship round in Latvia.
Latvala, having failed to finish in Monte-Carlo, has slightly less than one rally under his belt in the Volkswagen Polo R, but teammate Ogier will be out to prove his fairytale result there was no fluke and will call on the experience of two top-five finishes in Sweden.
Loeb surprised many by picking Sweden as one of the four rallies in his WRC swan-song.
“It is undoubtedly not one of the rallies where I have enjoyed the most success in recent years, but that’s exactly why I’m keen to compete here,” the nine-time world champion explained.
“I am here one final time to try and go out in style!”
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Rally Sweden characterises the highly diverse nature of the weather and road conditions that challenge teams on the 13-round FIA World Rally Championship, which will swoop into the New South Wales Coffs Coast for Rally Australia on 12-15 September.
The spectacle of cars nudging 200 kmh on snow makes for breathtaking television pictures, while drivers relish the speed and the surprising grip available from tyres fitted with hundreds of tungsten-tipped steel studs.
Snow banks are often used to stop the car sliding too far, allowing the drivers to attack corners faster.
Rally Sweden rewards those who are willing to risk everything, but the snow can swallow World Rally Cars whole.
Rally Sweden is once again based in Karlstad and, starting from Thursday night, will comprise 22 stages totalling almost 340 competitive kms and including a loop through Norway before the Sunday finish.
The Vargasen Special Stage features the classic Colin’s Crest jump, where the record for the longest “flight” was set at 37 metres by Ken Block in 2011.
About Rally Australia
Rally Australia on 12-15 September 2013 will be the 22nd WRC event in Australia and the third since it moved to New South Wales from Western Australia. The 2011 rally attracted more than 13,000 individual visitors to the Coffs Coast, generating more than 64,000 bed nights and a net economic impact of $14.8 million, according to Destination NSW. The shire and forestry roads of the Coffs Harbour, Nambucca, Bellingen and Clarence Valley local government areas provide a true challenge for the WRC drivers against a magnificent backdrop of subtropical coastal and hinterland scenery.
About the FIA World Rally Championship
The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) is widely regarded as the world’s most challenging motorsport championship. Rounds in 13 countries pit drivers in highly-modified versions of popular production cars over a series of timed “special stages” on surfaces varying from gravel and asphalt to snow and ice. Started in 1973, the WRC over the years has been a battleground for makes including Toyota, Subaru, Ford, Citroen, Fiat, Audi, Mitsubishi, Mini and Peugeot. Volkswagen and Hyundai are poised to join the series, which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators in some countries and a huge global television audience. The WRC is regulated and controlled by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body for motorsport worldwide.
For further information, please contact:
Ben Rainsford Chris Nixon
Chairman Media Manager
Rally Australia M. +61 418 759 417
M. +61 419 816 227 E. [email protected]