PHOTO: Hyundai will be among the ice warriors in Sweden with its new i20 Coupe WRC (Red Bull pic)
THE all-new specification World Rally Cars head for another fresh challenge as the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the contenders to the snowy forests of Sweden and Norway for the only true winter round in the series, starting tonight (Australian time). And, once again, fans can catch all the spectacular sideways action on Red Bull TV.
Skinny tyres equipped with tungsten-tipped steel studs are essential on Rally Sweden and provide remarkable grip as they penetrate the frozen ground. Drivers can often be seen wearing heated racing boots and anti-glare glasses that provide greater definition of the landscape.
The backdrop of the white forests provides a unique spectacle in the World Rally Championship and while a loose surface car set-up is the norm, engineers are forced to find solutions to keep the cars running optimally in the sub-zero temperatures.
Because of its specialised nature, Rally Sweden has been dominated by the Scandinavians during the 63 years it has run, Frenchman Sébastien Loeb becoming the first outsider to claim victory back in 2004. Since then, only Sébastien Ogier has achieved a similar feat.
Underlining his superiority, Ogier won last month’s season opener in Monte Carlo on his debut for the M-Sport team. Now the four-time champion is aiming to build on that success in Sweden.
“We had a dream start to the season, but we can’t let that distract us. There is still a lot of work to do and Rally Sweden is a truly unique event,” he said.
“It’s an event that I really enjoy and we reach incredible speeds on the snow and ice – something that will only increase with the new cars this year. That means that there are no margins for error and you have to be very precise. There are often just a handful of seconds separating each competitor, so every second really does count.
“If we can secure another podium result, it would be a fantastic start and surpass all of our expectations this early in the year. I see no reason why we can’t be quietly confident of that, but at the same time it will require a lot of hard work behind the scenes.
“We’ve not yet seen everyone’s true potential, and I’m expecting a very exciting and very close-fought Rally Sweden.
Sweden is one of the highlights of the season, the speeds on snow and ice are incredible. That means you have to be very precise with little margin for error.”
The rally starts on Thursday evening with a 1.9 km super special stage at the Karlstad trotting track, which will be repeated on Saturday evening.
Friday’s itinerary will see crews cross the border into Norway and Saturday’s seven stages will feature two runs through Vargåsen with the Colin’s Crest Award. Sunday finishes in the Torsby service park after 18 stages and 331.74 km.
Red Bull TV will be broadcasting from Rally Sweden, round two of the World Rally Championship, with live coverage and special features.
Red Bull TV’s guest reporter for this second stop of the championship is 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia winner Andreas Mikkelsen, who has stood on the podium of this epic winter event twice. Andreas, reporting in Sweden together with Mike Chen, will bring the unique inside perspective of a modern rally driver to Red Bull TV’s coverage. Catch him while you can.
The first dedicated WRC programme on Red Bull TV is at 7am Saturday (AEST, 8am AEDT) with further daily highlights broadcast at 7am AEST/8am AEDT on Sunday and Monday. Saturday’s live coverage starts at 11.50pm AEST (.0050am AEDT Monday).
All shows will remain available to watch on-demand on Red Bull TV once the rally has finished. Red Bull TV is available to watch entirely free of charge online at redbull.tv and via mobile, laptop or smart television, or on the dedicated Red Bull TV app, available both for iPhone and Android.