WRC

Swedish Rally: Citroen preview

The chill in world class rallying... A little over a week after adding another jewel to its world crown in Monaco, the Xsara WRC switches its attention now to its third foray into the heart of wintry Sweden. For the second round of this year's...

The chill in world class rallying...

A little over a week after adding another jewel to its world crown in Monaco, the Xsara WRC switches its attention now to its third foray into the heart of wintry Sweden. For the second round of this year's 16-round World Championship, Citroën will line up at the Karlstad start with its usual crews, Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti.

Always a favourite with competitors, the Swedish Rally is run over the ultra-fast forest tracks of the rolling Värmland countryside. For the drivers, powering their WRC cars fitted with narrow wheels and heavily studded snow tyres at average speeds well in excess of 100 kph is sheer joy.

A key challenge of this event is that it's the only WRC round that takes place exclusively on snow and ice, a terrain which drivers from Europe's more southerly climes only get to compete on once a year. Their Nordic rivals, on the other hand, cut their teeth on it. As a consequence, the Swedish Rally is the only remaining event that has yet to be won by anyone but a Swede or a Finn. Indeed, the stranglehold of the event's homegrown drivers went unbroken from 1950 until 1980. Since 1981, however, their Finnish neighbours have profited from their annual trips across the Gulf of Bothnia to claim thirteen of the past twenty-three Swedish Rallies to have been organised.

Another of the event's difficulties concerns stage conditions. The most feared scenario is a thaw which makes the roads' wintry cloak vulnerable to the emergence of gravel and stones. In 1990, the event even had to be cancelled because the weather was too warm! Meanwhile, even in sub-zero temperatures, the hardness of the surface can vary significantly. The ideal situation is sheet ice which puts competitors on an equal footing whatever their road position. Packed snow, even hard-packed, inevitably tends to rut with each passing car, a phenomenon that can put later runners at a disadvantage. Alternatively, fresh powder snow limits the ability of the studs to bite into the ice, in this case to the detriment of those who are first on the road...

Citroën's preparation for the second outing of the season included two test sessions in Sweden. The first took place during the third week of December and saw Sébastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz take turns at the wheel at a base near Arjeplog, on the southern fringe of the Arctic Circle. For the second session, near Umea, in the third week of January, the pair was joined by Philippe Bugalski, their work focusing on optimisation of the Xsara WRC's set-up (springs, antiroll bars, differentials). The programme also allowed the drivers to acquaint themselves with the latest evolution 'GA' and 'GE' tyres that make up Michelin's range for Sweden.

All is now ready and Citroën's motivation couldn't be higher. Carlos Sainz dreams of winning the Swedish Rally, one of the few rounds that doesn't yet figure on his prestigious record, while Sébastien Loeb will be looking to claim his maiden non-asphalt WRC win. It will be anything but easy, but the Versailles-Satory team has its sights set high...

Michelin, Magneti-Marelli, Kinetic, OZ, AIS and Citroën Financement are Team Citroën-Total's partners in the World Rally Championship.

-citroen-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Sébastien Loeb , Philippe Bugalski , Marc Marti
Teams Citroën World Rally Team