WRC

Rally of Sweden preview

Friday, 2nd February 2001 CHARACTER OF THE EVENT A wintry event held in Sweden on gravel forest tracks covered with ice or snow, but paradoxically one of the fastest rallies in the World series. First event to qualify for the new-style Teams'...

Friday, 2nd February 2001

CHARACTER OF THE EVENT
A wintry event held in Sweden on gravel forest tracks covered with ice or snow, but paradoxically one of the fastest rallies in the World series. First event to qualify for the new-style Teams' Cup.

NEW THIS YEAR
To counter the effect of global warming, all the special stages are held above a line 75km north of the rally headquarters, Karlstad. This line by coincidence happens to be the 60th parallel!

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP NEWS
Six of the seven registered teams will take part, only Citroen is missing. Not only have 12 nominated crews been entered, but official teams have entered another four as well. More tactical 'musical chairs' regarding driver nominations: Thomas Radstrom invited as guest driver for Mitsubishi. This time Petter Solberg rather than Markko Martin is second driver to Richard Burns at Subaru.

NEWS FROM THE MANUFACTURERS' TEAMS

MARLBORO MITSUBISHI RALLIART (1st - 13 points)
Tommi Makinen (car n°.7) and Thomas Radstrom (car n°.19). Also entered Freddy Loix (car n°.8).

This is the first time Ralliart has officially run a three-car team on a world championship rally and Radstrom's first drive in Mitsubishi, although co-driver Tina Thorner has been involved with them in many successful activities, including cross-country rallies and Group N World Championship rallying. Team manager George Donaldson: "Only six extra technicians in addition to the usual 18 will be required, plus equipment. Having a third car does not substantially enlarge our operation."

FORD MOTOR COMPANY (2nd - 6 points)
Carlos Sainz (car n°. 3) and Colin McRae (car n°.4). Also entered Francois Delecour (car n°.17).

A fortnight before the event, Ford had a three-day joint Portugal and Argentina Rally test in Portugal, when Carlos Sainz lost almost two days work because of bad weather. Colin McRae's Monte-Carlo throttle problem astonished M-Sport engineers. The same system has been used constantly in Indycar racing without trouble! First event for former Ralliart team manager Phil Short in on-event work with M-Sport.

SKODA MOTORSPORT (3rd - 5 points)
Armin Schwarz (car n°.11) and Bruno Thiry (car n°.12).

Five days were spent testing in Portugal after Monte-Carlo. Two of last year's cars will be used in Sweden. Pavel Janeba, team's sporting director said: "There has been a wonderful spirit in the team since Monte-Carlo, when we had been lying third on the final day."

HYUNDAI CASTROL WORLD RALLY TEAM (4th - 2 points)
Kenneth Eriksson (car n°.9) and Alister McRae (car n°.10).

Possibly the last official appearance for the first generation Accent WRC. Twenty-one years after he first tackled the Swedish, an event he has won three times, this will be Kenneth Eriksson's first rally of the year. The team will confirm future plans at a Press Conference in Karlstad on Wednesday evening.

TEAM PEUGEOT TOTAL (0 points)
Marcus Gronholm (car n°.1) and Didier Auriol (car n°.2). Also entered Harri Rovanpera (car n°.16).

First anniversary of debut win for 206 WRC. First rally for Harri Rovanpera in Peugeot (first test was in Sweden in mid-January). Monte-Carlo follow-up: the water pump which stopped Marcus Gronholm's car had never failed before during many years of Supertourism racing or 306 Maxi Kit Car rallying...

SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM (0 points)
Richard Burns (car n°.5) and Petter Solberg (car n°.6). Also entered Markko Martin (car n°.18).

The failure of the cars at Monte-Carlo of both Richard Burns and Markko Martin have been assigned to the same cause - faulty ignition coils. Prior to the recce, Markko and Petter are making last-minute testing at Syssleback, close to the long stage 4: earlier Petter and Toshihiro Arai have been at Chateau Lastours making suspension testing with Cyprus and Acropolis in mind.

AUTOMOBILES CITROEN (0 points) (not competing on this event)
Citroen has spent ten days testing in Kenya with Philippe Bugalski and Thomas Radstrom, before Radstrom's return for pre-Swedish preparations with Mitsubishi.

FIA Teams' Cup explained
This year only six events count towards the FIA Teams' Cup, of which this is the first. In previous years all the World rallies qualified for this series, but drivers could only enter seven rounds which had to be nominated beforehand. Manufacturers are banned from entering, competitors must take part in all six events, competing drivers are automatically given 2nd priority seeding and therefore have preferential starting positions. Originally 13 entries were anticipated but one has since withdrawn. The remaining 12 come from Poland, Denmark, Sweden, two from Britain, Greece, Czech Republic, Oman, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Finland. Two entries will run Group N cars, the other 11 World Rally Cars, including four Toyotas and Subarus, a Ford and a Peugeot.

OTHER RUNNERS IN SWEDISH
Top second seeded driver (non-works entry) is Henning Solberg, brother of Petter in the first of seven Corolla WRCs expected to start, five run by Asterhag from Sweden and two by Step 2 from Italy. Toni Gardemiester drives the same HF Grifone Peugeot he had at Monte-Carlo. The Swedish will see the first appearance of private Hyundai Accent WRCs on a World rally. They are to be driven by the Kolberg (not Solberg!) brothers from Norway. First of five World rallies planned this year by 25 year old Corolla WRC driver Janne Tuohino, who momentarily led the Network Q Rally of Great Britain last year. First Toyota drive for Tapio Laukkanen, who has the only full specification Corolla WRC on this event. Only 18 of the 75 entries have two-wheel drive cars, the most notable being reigning national champion Jonas Kruse (Renault Maxi Megane).

In Group N, the top three seeds are Swedish (Kenneth Backlund, Stig-Olof Walfridsson, and for the first time in a rally Group N car, the 92/93 outright winner Mats Jonsson), all expected to use standard rather than new-regulation gearboxes. Of the top international competitors in this category, only the Italian Gianluigi Galli is due to start. Last year's category winner Jani Paasonen appears in a Focus WRC for the first time. Another new FIA rule means that the latest Group N Mitsubishis can now use 16 inch wheels, availing their drivers of the latest winter tyre technology from World Rally Car design, which was not possible last year.

SPECIAL FACTS
Tribute to Stig Blomqvist! Thirty years ago, before the World Championship began, Stig won the Swedish Rally for the first time. His total of seven victories over the years on this event makes him the most successful driver on any event which counts for the World series. This will be Blomqvist's 32nd Swedish Rally. Since the start of his career he has only missed three events: 1965 (the first winter Swedish Rally), 1998 and 2000.

Don't be confused. Despite many successes for drivers Bengt and Bertil in the '60s, the Celica driver Lasse Soderstrom is no relation! Lasse, however, has been a regular competitor in recent years in European championship rallycross.

WEATHER PROSPECTS
Snow is forecast this weekend, just before reconnaissance starts. Clerk of Course Bertil Klarin: "We hope this will give all our visitors the sort of welcome we like to offer!"

www.fia.com www.worldrallychampionship.com

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Toshihiro Arai , Richard Burns , Kenneth Backlund , Harri Rovanpera , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Jani Paasonen , Armin Schwarz , Philippe Bugalski , Thomas Radstrom , Kenneth Eriksson , Tina Thorner , Gianluigi Galli , Henning Solberg , Janne Tuohino , Stig Blomqvist , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport