Preview: Seeking success in snowy Sweden
From the wintry conditions of Monte-Carlo, we now head to the snowy stages of Sweden for round two of the 2017 WRC season.
It is a rally where weve celebrated podium finishes in the past two seasons, with Thierry and Nicolas finishing second in 2015, while Hayden and John took the runner-up position last year.
Our brand new challenger, the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, set an impressive pace in Monte-Carlo. As a team, we scored seven stage wins, including a dominant performance by our Belgian crew in the Power Stage. Unfortunately, we didnt get the result we had hoped for, but we plan to come back fighting in Sweden.
Transforming the set-up
For a typical Rally Sweden, car set-up needs to cope with lower temperatures and wintry terrain the hallmarks of any classic Swedish event. As crews navigate the stages with snow banks as their guide, aerodynamics can be adversely affected. The front of the car is also likely to pick up ice, so air filters need added protection.
Its like a winter wonderland, comments our Kiwi Hayden. Its one of my favourites, very fast and with lots of jumps. The sensation of driving on the snow, and using the snow banks, is like no other!
Our i20 Coupe WRC will run a softer suspension to tackle the big jumps, which includes the famous Colins Crest in the Vargåsen stage on Saturday. Thierry and Nicolas recorded the longest jump through this stage in 2015 on their way to second place.
Specific studded Michelin tyres will also be used. The extra engine power for this years cars could cause tyre studs to loosen, which is an extra consideration for our drivers.
Sweden is a unique event, said Thierry, as its the only event where the cars are fitted with proper studded tyres on snow for the duration of the rally. A lot of experience is necessary to mount a challenge. Having competed here on many occasions and with some good results so Im confident.
Moving on up
Covering 18 stages over a competitive distance of 331.74km, Sweden is WRCs only true winter rally. Almost 58% of the stage composition is new compared to 2016, including Fridays Hof-Finnskog test, which has never been used before.
In a bid to enjoy colder conditions, the service park moves to a more northerly location in Torsby. The itinerary will once again see crews cross over the border into Norway but a mid-leg service will be re-introduced instead of the previous tyre fitting zone.
Although conditions are usually snowy, last years edition proved that nothing is guaranteed. We had to abort a pre-event test in December due to it being warmer than expected but weve enjoyed near perfect conditions in recent tests. All three crews have had the chance to prepare for the rally, despite a few interruptions.
Weve had a slightly disjointed schedule, admits our Team Principal Michel. But we are all hoping for plenty of the white stuff! It will be a very different challenge to Monte-Carlo, but its been a good rally for us in the past, so I hope we can continue this trend.
If we can get good conditions on the road, it becomes a really enjoyable event, adds Dani. The speeds gets quicker and quicker. We will be looking to push on from Monte and to get a strong result.