Preview: Rally Sweden – Winter is coming!
This is the only event that can be called a complete winter rally, as the forests of Sweden and the Nordic region is at the hight of winter with snow and ice covering the terrain. The teams will be using their toughest tyres, where a single tyre contains more than 300 studs measuring 6,5 millimetres.
Sneak peaks of pictures from the organisers and weather forecasts looks promising. The conditions are perfect for a winter rally. The snow banks at the edge of the road measure more than a meter and the road is covered in a thick, sturdy 5 cm layer of ice. This ensures perfect conditions for the studded tyres.
The question marks will revolve around the starting order. In the past we have seen an advantage been dealt to the first starters, but we’ve also seen a 1sec/km disadvantage for first starters because of road sweeping.
Sweden is tricky and will certainly reward drivers mastering tough arctic conditions. Let’s run through the drivers and see what we can expect:
Apart from one win from Sébastien Loeb in 2004, he is the only successful non-scandinavian driver in Sweden so far. He secured 3 wins after tight fights 2013, 2015 and 2016. Last year was especially difficult. On the first day he met trouble with sweeping in the first loop, and on the second loop he startet first after the previous round… But if the conditions are more equal and the Fiesta remains competitive against other cars, he can always be a challenger for the victory.
Apart form a win at WRC 2 in 2016 with the Fiesta R5, Evans has not got the best statistics (and not much experience) with the icy roads of the Swedish forests. We do not expect too much from him in competition with the Scandinavian stars, but two 6th places in the past proves that if everything runs smoothly, top 5 is possible.
This is the first WRC start for him this year and only the 3rd WRC start all time. But much like Poland and Finland, Sweden also have the fast roads that might suit Suninen. He was able to fight for the podium with Toyota in Finland, and we believe he can do at least as good in Sweden.
Last years Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rally Sweden was pretty much the same story. A small mistake combined with bad luck cost him the victory. A usual habit for Neuville? If he can avoid mistakes and cross his fingers, we will see him high on the final results.
A huge favourite for Rally Sweden. He has been close to win in the past, but like he said himself, «close is not enough…». The Hyundai suits Mikkelsen perfectly on gravel (as we could see in Rally Australia) and we believe it does so on snow and ice too. The Norwegian is familiar with the neighbouring Rally Sweden, so will it be enough this year? Very likely, yes!
The Kiwi is the last in a very strong line-up for Hyundai. We did not see his best performance at last years Rally Sweden following a difficult start in Monte-Carlo, but what a fight for victory in 2016 with Ogier! And let’s not forget about his good starting position (if the crew can handle sweeping)! A podium place is possible if everything works properly.
He’s always strong on fast roads, and was the biggest competitor for the win at Rallye Sweden last year. But it looked like the last stages of last year better suited Toyota, and as we know he drives Toyota this year. Maybe the stars are aligned? Tänak is definitely a possible winner.
It is already ten years since his first victory. And yes, that was Rally Sweden, in 2008.There’s no doubt about his experience with Swedish conditions, and with 4 wins he is the driver with the best Sweden statistics to show for. He showed his strength last year when he won with what was only the second rally with Toyota. Can he do it again? Why not!
It’s his first WRC start in Rally Sweden, but like all the other Finns he has no lack of experience on snow and ice. Still it’s difficult to predict anything with Lappi. Can he fight for the win? Yes, Rally Sweden and Rally Finland has similar roads. Can he be off the pace? Yes, like we saw in GB, in a new rally it will be difficult to fight with drivers like Latvala, Mikkelsen and others…
We saw some strong times from him in 2016. Last year also, with times right behind the podium until he made a mistake that cost him more than eight minutes. We also saw some problems with balance on the C3 WRC last year, but a patient performance and a 4th place from Rallye Monte-Carlo makes things look promising. Maybe not a favourite, but top 3 is possible.
Rallye Monte-Carlo did not bring the best of starts for Meeke. But in the past we have seen strong SS-times from him. A consistent performance last year secured him a position in the top 5. That is also possible this year.
11 years ago we saw the first stage win from Mads Østberg at Rally Sweden. 7 years ago we saw him on the podium. He is one of the most experienced drivers on the Swedish icy roads, and his statistics with 5 podiums also makes him a very likely challenger for the podium this year. Questions remain, though. About the C3 WRC for instance – will he be at his most competitive after one day of testing? As we learned in Sardinia last year, it might take som time.
So hang on tight and watch out for the really big jumps at Colin’s Crest! Rally Seden always deliver. And if you can’t wait – watch our jump compilation video at the bottom.
Enjoy Rally Sweden!