Rally Sweden

11 – 14 February 2016.

 

Red-hot coverage, exclusive background reports, interviews, the latest photos – simply everything on the 2016 Rally Sweden. You are always up to date here.

Sunday, 14/02/2016


The world champion wins in the far north to stretch his overall lead. Snow rally proves to be short but testing. The video.


Best images of the day (20).


Short but sweet - Ogier wins in the far north.

 

Win number three in Sweden, full points after two rounds of the world championship – and in conditions that were far from easy. Sébastien Ogier’s performance in Sweden proved once again why he has three world championship titles to his name. The Frenchman produced a display worthy of a world champion to overcome the disadvantage of having to open the route on the majority of stages, and to hold the opposition at bay over the full three days. He then put the icing on the cake with victory and three bonus points on Sunday’s Power Stage.

 

The reigning world champion laid the foundation for his victory on Friday. By the end of day one, he had opened a lead of almost 27 seconds over his closest rival Hayden Paddon (Hyundai). The New Zealander proved tricky to shake off, however. In fact, Paddon piled on the pressure on day two of the rally, and cut the gap to under ten seconds at one point. Ogier remained unflustered, however, re-establishing his lead ahead of the final stage on Sunday.


As well as the thrilling battle at the head of the field, the second big story in Sweden was the weather. Nine special stages fell victim to the unseasonably mild weather in the Swedish province of Värmland. Eight of the stages had been cancelled prior to the start of the rally, and the 20th and penultimate stage joined them at short notice. As such, the only remaining stage on the final day was the Power Stage. And Ogier kept a cool head again here too. Manage the lead? Not the world champion! As in Monte Carlo, there was no question of the world champion easing off in Sweden. With overall victory in his grasp, the Frenchman was the last man onto the final stage. Ogier once again blew the opposition away to secure the three bonus points.


While Sébastien Ogier travels to Mexico with the maximum 56 points to his name, things can only get better as far as Jari-Matti Latvala is concerned. The Finn did prove once again in Sweden that he is one of the fastest drivers in the WRC. However, luck seems to have deserted last year’s runner-up in the world championship. The Rally Sweden was only a matter of metres old when it was already over for Latvala: the drive shaft on his World Rally Car broke on the opening stage, forcing him to return under Rally 2 conditions on the following two days. And fortune did not favour the Finn on the Power Stage either. He was the first man onto the snow-covered route and basically operated as a road sweeper for the following cars. As a result, even the extra points did not go his way. Latvala had unquestionably hoped for more ahead of the Rally Sweden. This will make the Finn all the more determined to bounce back in Mexico.

 

The third of the trio of Volkswagen drivers, Andreas Mikkelsen, had also set his sights higher for Sweden. In the end, he narrowly missed out on a spot on the podium, finishing fourth at his home rally. However, he did finish strongly to clock the second-fastest time behind Ogier on the Power Stage. The Norwegian now travels to Mexico as the second-placed driver in the World Championship.


Quotes from Volkswagen team.

“I just love this rally.”


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Winning in Sweden again is an incredible feeling. I just love this rally. The conditions were far from ideal at the start of the week after the thawing and all the rain, which makes it all the more pleasing that we eventually had a really good, wintery Rally Sweden. Yesterday, we probably had to take the greatest risk of our career in order to win. It paid off, and I am just really happy.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“Naturally, my second home rally, the Rally Sweden, didn’t go at all according to plan. It is always a bitter pill to swallow when a competition is over so early from a sporting perspective. However, it is also important to reflect on the positive aspects of the weekend. The car felt fantastic, we were totally competitive and we proved that with best times on some stages. Unfortunately, I had to take to the track first on the closing power stage, which meant that I wasn’t really in with a chance of picking up any points. We have a good starting position for the next event in Mexico, and we have to make use of it. Hopefully the conditions will be on our side, and I wouldn’t be averse to a little more luck than in the first two events of the season.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Naturally, fourth place is not what we were aiming for at the Rally Sweden. We definitely wanted to be fighting for the win. However, to achieve this, we had to drive on full attack right from the start – and ultimately made too many mistakes. Naturally, we will learn from this for the future. I gave it my all once again on the power stage today and picked up two bonus points. On balance we made the best of the situation.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director

“To win the Rally Sweden four times is a fantastic effort from the entire team, but particularly from Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. With the very special conditions created by the weather, winning this rally took a will to attack and a flawless display in equal measures. I take my hat off to them. The fact that going at full throttle 100 percent doesn’t necessarily guarantee success was demonstrated by Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger. Like their team-mates they gave it their all, but minor errors made the difference between victory and fourth place. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila missed out on fighting for the win early on, but despite the setbacks at the start, they delivered a good performance. We are definitely pleased with the performances of our drivers and the entire team.”


Final classification after 12 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Time / Diff 1st
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1h 59m 47.4s
2 H. Paddon / J. Kennard +29.8s
3 M. Østberg / O. Fløene +55.6s
4 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jæger +1m 10.8s
5 O. Tänak / R. Mõlder +1m 50.7s
6 D. Sordo / M. Martí +2m 24.0s
7 H. Solberg / I. Minor +2m 40.0s
8 C. Breen / S. Martin +2m 44.6s
9 E. Evans / C. Parry +5m 17.0s
10 T. Suninen / M. Markkula +5m 31.6s

Number of the day.

226.48

 

The warm weather in Sweden and the persistent thawing ahead of the second WRC event of the year forced the organisers to cancel nine of the 21 special stages. This reduced the distance of the classified kilometres to 226.48 km – making the 2016 Rally Sweden the shortest WRC rally of all time. Before this, the 2015 Rally France at 245.35, the 2007 Rally Argentina at 248.90 and the 2011 Rally Jordan at 259.56 timed kilometres were the shortest competitions in WRC history.


Sunday: the special stages of the third day.

Saturday, 13/02/2016


Best images of the day (24).


The world champion has everything under control.

Sébastien Ogier stretched his advantage at the Rally Sweden back to 17.1 seconds and now goes into the one remaining special stage with a comfortable lead. The man in second place remains the rapid Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon, who had at one point in the morning cut Ogier’s lead to 8.8 seconds.

 

Seb Ogier was once again faced with the disadvantage of having to open the route on Saturday. Heavy snow over the course of the day had concealed any bumps and uneven areas on the roads. Rather than play it safe, Ogier shocked the opposition by going all out on the offensive – particularly on stage number 16, Vargåsen, home of the legendary 40-metre jump Colin’s Crest. Ogier set an impressive fastest time, producing one particularly spectacular scene in the process. At full speed, he momentarily lost the rear end of his Polo R WRC and skidded towards a group of trees. He coolly regained control of his Volkswagen, however, as if nothing untoward had happened. “I was really flat-out,” said a delighted Ogier afterwards. “I could not have driven faster than I did today in these snowy conditions.”

 

Despite all this, Ogier was not actually the fastest Volkswagen driver on Saturday. Jari-Matti Latvala bounced back from yesterday’s misery to win three of the five stages. “I am trying to find a good rhythm, which is far from easy in these snowy conditions,” said Jari-Matti. Andreas Mikkelsen could not produce an entirely flawless display on Saturday. The Norwegian made a navigational error and actually had to turn round to find the right route. Trailing third-placed Mads Østberg (Ford) by 29.7 seconds with just one stage remaining, Mikkelsen looks likely to have to settle for fourth place. 


Quotes from the Volkswagen team

“We took a big step towards the victory!”


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“We gave absolutely everything today, from the first metre to the last. We knew that we would lose a lot of time on some stages, as we had to open the route after the overnight snowfall, meaning we had to sweep the roads for those behind us. As we obviously wanted to take our lead into tomorrow, there was no time for tactics. Apart from one moment on the second pass of ‘Vargåsen’, we did not give a millimetre and had an almost perfect day. To go into tomorrow’s closing Power Stage with a lead is obviously good news. We took a big step towards our third victory in Sweden today.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I had big plans for today. Unfortunately, the day began just as badly as yesterday had finished. We suffered a flat tyre on the very first special stage. After that, I at least salvaged something from day two of the rally with a few stage wins. That was important, as you ask an awful lot of yourself after a start like that. At the moment I can only keep my fingers crossed that my team-mates are successful for Volkswagen. However, the good times will return.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I knew that, given our early starting position, I had to push hard if I wanted to challenge for a place on the podium. Our times at the start of the day were really good. However, our pace notes were a bit too optimistic at one point on the ‘Rämmen’ stage. We skidded off the road and into a ditch, after which we had to turn round and consequently lost a lot of time. That changed our situation and we then concentrated on securing fourth place. We had actually hoped to challenge for the win – but, all in all, we made too many mistakes.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director

“A really exciting day at the Rally Sweden, with a good result for Volkswagen in the end. And, thanks to the overnight snowfall, Sweden is a winter rally once again. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia took their courage in both hands today and produced an impressive performance to overcome the disadvantage of having to open the route as world championships leaders. Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger could also have been rewarded more highly for their will to attack. They have, however, at least managed to climb from sixth to fourth place. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila showed that it is no coincidence that they have won the Rally Sweden three times in the past with some top times today.”


Classification after 11 of 12 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Time / Diff 1st
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1h 52m 04.7s
2 H. Paddon / J. Kennard +17.1s
3 M. Østberg / O. Fløene +42.3s
4 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jæger +1m 07.4s
5 O. Tänak / R. Mõlder +1m 31.6s
6 D. Sordo / M. Martí +1m 56.3s
7 H. Solberg / I. Minor +2m 17.2s
8 C. Breen / S. Martin +2m 20.8s
9 E. Evans / C. Parry +4m 44.7s
10 P. Tidemand / J. Andersson +5m 02.6s

Number of the day.

95

 

Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen were the fastest on the second pass of the WRC classic Vargåsen, which featured the legendary jump Colin's Crest. It was the 95th special stage in the history of the Polo R WRC, on which all three of the best times went to Volkswagen. The World Rally Car from Wolfsburg has a total of 522 best times from 744 special stages to its name.


Midday report

The lead is melting.


Something is gradually melting away at the Rally Sweden. However, it is not the snow, more of which fell overnight. The forests around Hagfors now look more like what you would expect. Snowy and peaceful. What is actually disappearing is the lead that Volkswagen’s Sébastien Ogier holds over his closest rival Hayden Paddon (Hyundai). The Frenchman’s advantage is now down to just 8.8 seconds.

 

With two special stages scheduled for Saturday morning, Ogier was once again the first man onto the route. The world champion had to manoeuvre his Polo R WRC on a compact layer of snow. Bumps and even stones peeked out of the surface of the snow, like raisins on a cake. And it was anyone’s guess as to where the edges of the road were. However, not even that could ruffle Ogier’s feathers. He set a phenomenal time on Fredriksberg to win the stage, leaving everyone else utterly astonished. 

 

“Ogier really gave it everything and used every metre of the road,” said a visibly impressed Mikkelsen, who is currently fourth. Andreas was the second driver onto the route, meaning he was able to see Ogier’s tracks in the snow. And yet it would appear that Ogier could have gone even faster. “I left a bit of time in there,” said Ogier unflustered. Incredible. With this unflappable style, surely he should be able to fend off Paddon’s attacks.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala remains jinxed at this year’s Rally Sweden. On Friday he first struggled with technical problems before damaging the suspension on his Polo R WRC. Saturday was a similarly frustrating story. The Finn suffered a puncture on the Fredriksberg stage and once again lost time. However, Latvala bounced back with an impressive stage win on Vargåsen to at least show what he is really capable of.

 


Standings after SS 12:

 

1. Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) 1:26:28.5 hrs.

2. Hayden Paddon (Hyundai) +8.8 sec.

3. Mads Østberg (Ford) +28.1 sec.

4. Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) +38.1 sec.

5. Ott Tänak (Ford) +57.9 sec. 


Saturday: the special stages of the second day.

Friday, 12/02/2016


Best images of the day (13).


Ogier still out in front – exciting fight for second place.

 

Sébastien Ogier continues to demonstrate the full range of his driving ability at the Rally Sweden. Although conditions are far from easy, and Ogier had a brief off-road excursion in the morning, the Frenchman in the Polo R WRC holds a dominant lead at the top of the overall standings. 26.9 seconds separate him from second-placed Hayden Paddon (Hyundai) at the end of day one. Whilst many may have predicted this interim result, few would have foreseen one event at the second round of the championship: snow stopped the WRC drivers in their tracks in Värmland and neighbouring Norway on Friday afternoon.

 

“The afternoon was far from easy,” said Ogier at the end of the opening day. “I knew that I would drop time on the second loop. However, the snow made far more challenging than expected.” Ogier opened the route on Friday, and a thin layer of fresh snow made the roads considerably more slippery. The surface on the stages, which were already tricky enough, deteriorated further in the morning with every passing WRC and WRC2 car. A number of drivers skidded off line and damaged their cars. Among them was Citroën’s Kris Meeke, who was lying second overall at the time.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala was doubly unlucky. The drive shaft on the front-left wheel of his Polo R WRC gave up the ghost on the morning’s opening stage, leaving the Finn to battle on with rear-wheel drive. He consequently fell well back, before damaging his Polo R WRC on the final stage of the day.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen could not produce a flawless performance on Friday, and finds himself sixth overall after six of the 13 stages scheduled. “I played it a bit safe, but made a few minor mistakes,” said Andreas. “But I am still in it, and that is the most important thing.” Ahead of Mikkelsen, the battle for second place is heating up nicely. Just five seconds separate Paddon in second place and Dani Sordo (Hyundai) in fifth. And Mikkelsen is only a further nine seconds back … 


Quotes from the Volkswagen team

“We could not have pushed any harder.”


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“All in all it was a good day for us. The conditions were far from easy, especially in the afternoon when, as the first car onto the route, we swept the fresh snow off the road for those behind us. I went flat-out from the word go, as I knew that we would lose time in the afternoon. We could not have pushed any harder. We were very lucky this morning on the fourth stage, ‘Svullrya’, when we were caught out by some water and skidded off the road. Fortunately, we got off lightly and just lost a bit of time. An eventful day, but we are happy.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“About two kilometres from the end of the first stage I suffered a malfunction on the front-left drive shaft after a jump. Driving with only rear-wheel drive in these weather conditions is a very difficult undertaking, and it was impossible to avoid losing a massive amount of time. As such, the rally was basically over before it had really got going. Then we suffered suspension damage on the final stage of the afternoon. It is obviously depressing, but, as a good sportsman, all you can do is look ahead and try to attack again next time.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“We made a few mistakes today. The fact that we are not up there with the leaders is entirely my fault. The first mistake on the fourth stage could have happened to anyone having to open the route, as my team-mate Sébastien Ogier and I did. We skidded off the road after an unforeseeable water splash and were lucky to get back on track. I also spun once today, damaged the front of the Polo, and was then simply too cautious. Despite this, we still have a good chance of finishing on the podium. That is obviously what we will be fighting for tomorrow and on Sunday.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director

“First of all, I would like to pay a huge compliment to the organisers. They really pulled out all the stops to make it possible to stage the Rally Sweden at all. Thanks to the remarkable commitment they showed, they were able to defy the unseasonably warm temperatures, which are not exactly typical here in Sweden. The conditions were not only extremely difficult for the organisers, but also for the drivers and co-drivers. After the Recce, the roads were levelled out, watered and then froze overnight. We then had heavy snowfall today – it was virtually impossible to predict what awaited the drivers and co-drivers. That only makes the performance of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia all the better, when you consider that they had to open the route. Like their team-mates, Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger also came off the road a couple of times – but lost considerably more time in the process. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were just unlucky to suffer a broken drive shaft early on, and then a broken suspension later in the day. Despite the minor problems, we are happy with this result on such a difficult day.”


Classification after 6 of 12 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Time / Diff 1st
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1h 03m 10.6s
2 H. Paddon / J. Kennard +26.9s
3 M. Østberg / O. Fløene +33.7s
4 O. Tänak / R. Mõlder +34.8s
5 D. Sordo / M. Martí +38.s
6 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jæger +42.0s
7 H. Solberg / I. Minor +1m 36.9s
8 C. Breen / S. Martin +1m 38.8s
9 E. Camilli / N. Klinger +2m 43.5s
10 L. Bertelli / S. Scattolin +3m 08.6s

Number of the day.

400 ...

.. .hours in front of the “box”. Andreas Mikkelsen’s new co-driver, Anders Jæger, spent the last few years preparing himself for the WRC elite by studying videos. And an average of 400 hours of video a year at that. This is the equivalent of half of the average TV consumption per year in his home country of Norway.


Midday report

Winter returns – and Volkswagen leads.

 

The Värmland region awoke to frosty temperatures on day one of the Rally Sweden, and the long awaited snow even made a welcome appearance. It would appear the weather gods are rally fans. And there was more good news – for Volkswagen fans, at least: Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen top the overall standings after the morning’s three special stages. In contrast, Jari-Matti Latvala in the third Volkswagen Polo R WRC was struck by misfortune as early as the opening stage. The drive shaft at the front-left of the car broke, transforming his four-wheel drive Polo into a rear-wheel drive car. A hugely frustrating turn of events for Latvala, but the Finn refused to give in and, despite losing a lot of time, battles on.

 

Two of Friday morning’s three special stages were held either partly or completely in Norway, where there has been a blanket of snow for the past few days. The surface is icy enough for the spiked tyres to generate perfect grip for the WRC cars. The opening stage (Torsby) in Sweden, on the other hand, was held on thawed out gravel tracks. However, they posed no problem to the Volkswagens. “The conditions here are virtually perfect,” said Ogier, giving his first impression of the morning’s route. “You could push hard. The organisers have done a good job here.” Over the past few days, no costs or effort have been spared to prepare the rally route. The organisers worked through the night to level out the gravel roads, some of which were very uneven, for the WRC cars.

 

There was one worrying moment shortly before the midday break. A puddle was lurking on the fourth stage, Svullrya 1, and almost caught Seb Ogier out. He briefly lost control of his Polo R WRC and brushed a few small trees. The Frenchman was able to continue, and even went on to win the stage. Team-mate Mikkelsen also faltered slightly in the puddle, but was also able to continue.

 

The drivers return to each of the morning’s three stages on the afternoon loop. 

 

Standings after SS 4:

 

1. Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) 31:13.2 min.

2. Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) +24.2 sec.

3. Kris Meeke (Citroën) +28.7 sec.

4. Dani Sordo (Hyundai) +30.3 sec.

5. Mads Østberg (Ford) +36.3 sec.


Friday: the special stages of the first day.

Thursday, 11/02/2016


Game on: Green light at the Rally Sweden.

 

One thing is certain: this will not be a typical Rally Sweden in ice and snow. It will be more of an adventure, which promises to pose a huge challenge to the teams and organisers. Eight special stages were cancelled on Monday. It is simply too warm in the Värmland region around Karlstad. The roads are not frozen, and heavy machinery has had to be used on many stages to level the surface, which is soft and muddy in places. With safety in mind, the International Automobile Federation FIA has equipped the WRC teams with an additional four spiked tyres. They may not offer ideal traction on the gravel roads, but the extra tyres will certainly improve grip out on the stages.

 

The trotting track in Karlstad was originally scheduled to host the spectacular opening stage. That was not to be, however, as there too was a lack of snow. However, the fans were not denied the opportunity to see the WRC cars altogether. This track provided the stage for the ceremonial start on Thursday evening. The programme for the next three days has been slimmed down somewhat. Of the original 21 special stages, only 13 remain on the itinerary.

 

The thermometer is set to drop below freezing point over the coming days. Perhaps the surface will hold out and we may even see the odd snow flake.


More grip for the Rally Sweden.

 

Fully committed to staging the rally: The organisers of the Rally Sweden are currently working flat-out to guarantee that this classic event runs smoothly. Steamrollers were employed on Wednesday night to iron out bumps on the Vargåsen, Värmullåsen, Torsby and Fredriksberg special stages. Temperatures above freezing and rainfall over the past few days meant the roads around Karlstad were no longer frozen solid, but were soft and muddy. Eight of the original 21 special stages were consequently cancelled. 

 

The International Automobile Federation FIA has also taken action in response to the difficult conditions. In order to guarantee the safety of the drivers at the rally, the federation has sanctioned the use of an additional four spiked tyres. As the Rally Sweden is officially a snow and ice event, only the narrow tyres with metal studs may be used.

 

The Rally Sweden begins at 08:51 on Friday morning with the Torsby 1 special stage.

Tuesday, 09/02/2016


Swedish snow promises: "I'll do my best".

In light of the weather conditions as the Rally Sweden is set to start, a critical interview with one of the protagonists of the second round of the WRC: The Swedish snow.

 

The Rally Sweden is about to get underway. How do you feel?

I'm getting hot under the collar again …

 

Rising temperatures are far from good for a rally, in which you play one of the leading roles. Why are you finding it so difficult to keep your cool?

That is a tricky question. A few years ago I found it a lot easier. In 2013, for example. Everyone had a lot of respect for me that year.

 

You gave all the competitors the cold shoulder back then. We remember it well. Describe your last major performance from your perspective.

It was fantastic. I sent a shiver down everyone’s spine. Rally fans had to shovel their way to the special stages. The teams unpacked their huge heating systems in the service park so that they didn't freeze. Even snowmobiles got stuck all over the place. And some of the drivers also got stuck in the enormous mountains of snow that lined the special stages.

 

It sounds a little bit like you are gloating. People are usually delighted to see you in the winter. Were you left feeling slightly bitter when you realised that your performance during the Rally Sweden has been lacking these past two winters?

I admit that there is room for me to improve on my most recent performance. But there is no trace of bitterness. My performance is more than adequate in many of the northern regions. Even as we speak.

 

We don't think that being stubborn helps. Please let us know whether we can count on you for the 2016 Rally Sweden?

I think that it goes without saying that I am a huge fan of the Rally Sweden. Who isn't? I definitely promise to do my best to make the event as exciting as possible given the circumstances.

 

That's good to hear. However, in the meantime the weather forecasts are predicting rising temperatures. What do you have to say about that?

Believe me, that's all old news.

 

The schedules have already been mixed up a little bit. Can we really still count on you?

Yes, you can. I'll be there. But will the rally cars still be there ...?

 

Please note: This interview was taped ahead of Rally Sweden.

Monday, 08/02/2016


Thaw in Värmland: Rally Sweden route to be shortened.

Temperatures above freezing point and rain in Karlstad and the surrounding area have jeopardised this weekend’s Rally Sweden (12th to 14th February 2016). The organiser has now announced that, as the situation stands at midday on Monday, the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship will still go ahead. However, the WRC stars will not tackle all of the 21 special stages originally scheduled.

The stages cancelled are the “Karlstad” spectator stage on Thursday, “Kirkenær” (SS 5/6) on Friday, and SS 15 “Hagfors Sprint” on Saturday. The Recce has been postponed from Tuesday/Wednesday to Wednesday/Thursday, while the Shakedown has been cancelled. “There are sub-zero temperatures and even snow forecast for the rally weekend,” said route manager Johan Magnusson. “However, the big question is whether the roads will re-freeze, because we need frozen roads to be able to hold the event.”

Friday, 05/02/2016


Preview

Rally action on ice and snow.


Fans still recall the images of the 2015 Rally Sweden as though they were only yesterday: the on-board camera shows the number nine Polo R WRC stuck in the deep snow at the side of the road. The engine is revving furiously, but Andreas Mikkelsen is not going to get out of this particular dilemma in a hurry. Cut to the second on-board camera. His co-driver at the time, Ola Fløene, can be seen beating his thigh with his pace notes. His expression speaks volumes: he cannot believe it.

 

A small skid on the closing Power Stage ultimately leaves Mikkelsen’s dream of a maiden victory in tatters. The Norwegian has been embroiled in a remarkable duel with team-mate Sébastien Ogier all weekend. Back in the finish zone, Ogier can hardly believe his luck. His second victory in Sweden. Mikkelsen does make it out of the snowy ditch, with the help of some fans, but consequently has to settle for third place.

 

New year, new opportunity. This year, things are going to pan out better at the rally through the Värmland region, near Karlstad. Mikkelsen has but one goal: “I am not travelling to the Rally Sweden to finish second.” Andreas can certainly count on plenty of local support, as parts of the rally run through Mikkelsen’s native Norway. The stars of the WRC actually drive on both Swedish and Norwegian soil on the “Röjden” special stage.

 

Volkswagen undefeated in Sweden.

 

The Rally Sweden is the only rally on the calendar, which is held solely on snow and ice. The scenery, with forests seemingly sprinkled with icing sugar, is like something from a winter fairy tale every year. However, this idyllic appearance is deceptive. The snow-covered roads are perilous. They are extremely narrow, with deep snow and many trees lurking either side. Despite this, Volkswagen’s record in Sweden is flawless. Since the Polo R WRC made its debut in 2013, the Wolfsburg-based carmaker has won all three Rally Swedens. Ogier was successful in 2013, Jari-Matti Latvala in 2014, and Ogier again last year. 

 

The snowy environment is not the only aspect of the Rally Sweden that is extraordinary on the World Rally Championship calendar. The driving style is also unique. In order to be as quick as possible, the entire width of the road is used, with drivers often opting to ‘lean’ on the walls of snow lining the route. Michelin’s X-Ice North tyres provide the necessary grip. At 195mm in width, they are significantly narrower than the tyres used on asphalt or gravel. Studs screwed in to a depth of 13.5 millimetres and protruding 6.5 millimetres from the tyre bore into the ice to generate optimal traction.

 

Rally party at Colin’s Crest.

 

As well as the drivers’ spectacular drifting across the snow-covered roads, the Rally Sweden boasts another two highlights. The opening special stage in Karlstad on Thursday evening is held on a horse racing track. Two WRC cars go head to head on parallel circuits, putting on a spectacular show for the fans. Perhaps the highlight of the rally is Colin’s Crest – a jump named after rally legend Colin McRae and located on the longest stage of the rally, Vargåsen. Here, the cars fly up to 44 metres through the air. This is also the scene of a huge party for many fans.

 

It remains to be seen whether Volkswagen will also be celebrating come the end of Sunday’s action. The season started in successful fashion at the Rally Monte Carlo, with Ogier and Mikkelsen completing another one-two. As such, the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer is once again the hot favourite. The questions for Sweden could be: Will Ogier win for the third time in a row in Sweden and claim his second victory of the season? Can Jari-Matti Latvala triumph for the third time in Sweden and the first time this season? Or will Andreas Mikkelsen banish the memories of last year’s dramatic scenes and emerge from his Polo R WRC as the jubilant winner in the far north?


Quotes from the Volkswagen Team

„I am not travelling there to finish second.“

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“It is obviously fantastic to travel to Sweden on the back of a dream start to the season and with 28 points to our name. The conditions there are unique, and unlike anything anywhere else in the rallying world. Thanks to the special spiked tyres, we have perfect grip on the ice and snow and can position the car precisely at high speed. I am expecting a close Rally Sweden. I am certainly looking forward to the next rally. Last year it was a tough struggle with the Nordic drivers. They are the ones to beat in Sweden.”


Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“The Rally Sweden is like a home rally for me. I love driving on snow. No question, it is tougher travelling to Sweden with no points than after a good result in Monte Carlo. However, I cannot do anything about that now. The positive to come out of the situation is that I will have a better starting position. A good starting position means you have much better conditions and do not need to take as many risks. I must take advantage of that, in order to get back in the race for the title. However, it is also clear that I have two team-mates, in Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen, who have not only both shown that they are capable of winning in Sweden, but are also particularly motivated. Not to mention the opposition from the other teams.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“Firstly, I am not travelling to the Rally Sweden to finish second. It is my home rally, as part of the route is in my native Norway. Many of my friends and my entire family will be there, and it has always been my dream to win there. I came so damned close last year. I had the win in my hands – but ultimately came up just short in the final few metres. The conditions at the Rally Sweden are extreme. We drive on 6.5-millimetre long ‘Sweden spikes’, which generate a huge amount of grip. Furthermore, you can ‘lean’ against the walls of snow to the left and right of the road, in order to maintain your speed. This means you can really put your foot down without taking too many risks. We have made a good start to the season, and I will do everything in my power to win in Sweden for the first time.”


Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“We will probably always travel to the Rally Sweden with a sense of pride and anticipation,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “The entire team will never forget the scene of our first win in the World Rally Championship. Over the past three years, we have always enjoyed outstanding rallies in Sweden – with wins for Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, as well as some very special moments for Andreas Mikkelsen. These include his first podium and what was so nearly his first victory twelve months ago, for example. The rally fans will be raving about last year’s drama, when three drivers all had an equal chance of winning right down to the final stage, for a long time – unless the coming Rally Sweden is even more exciting than 2015.”