After the longest weekend of the season comes the most northerly, as the teams and drivers taking part in the LG Super Racing Weekend head to Sweden, and the Scandinavian Raceway in Anderstorp. This is the second time that the multi-series...
After the longest weekend of the season comes the most northerly, as the teams and drivers taking part in the LG Super Racing Weekend head to Sweden, and the Scandinavian Raceway in Anderstorp. This is the second time that the multi-series platform will be visiting the Swedish track, scene of the Swedish Formula One Grand Prix between 1973 and 1978. Last year, despite torrential rain during part of race day, some excellent on-track action took place at the circuit, when it hosted the fifth event 5 of the 2002 season.
In the FIA European Touring Car Championship, Anderstorp 2002 saw the Alfa Romeo early season dominance come to an end, when Jörg Müller claimed BMW's first win in Race Two, overtaking Volvo's Rickard Rydell on the last lap, Nicola Larini having won the first race for Alfa Romeo. This year will see the next scene in what is proving to be an incredibly close fight for the title, with the top five drivers separated by only seven points. Although Autodelta driver Tarquini maintains the lead, BMW's Jörg Müller is now just two points behind him.
In 2002, Neel Jani dominated the Anderstorp round of the Formula Renault Eurocup, with a full sweep of pole position, win and fastest lap. The Swiss teenager, currently second in the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup, will surely be hoping to repeat his 2002 performance, to allow him to close up on current leader Jaime Melo of Brazil. Both the early season leaders are being chased by Tristan Gommendy of France, who won the last round, at Spa. However, before heading for Sweden, the FR V6 drivers will be back in action this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. The Renault Sport Clio Elf International Cup will also be in action in Sweden.
Since last year, a lot of changes have taken place at the Scandinavian Raceway. Although the layout itself remains unchanged, all the run-off areas have been cleared and refilled with 2000 cubic metres of the Leeca material for which Anderstorp is famous. Around 1500 metres of tyre barriers have been set up, and the pit area has been redesigned, with 22 nine by eight metre tents as substitutes for the permanent pit buildings which it was not possible to finish in time.
ANDERSTORP - ACCORDING TO RICKARD RYDELL
Rickard Rydell is undoubtedly one of Sweden's leading Touring Car drivers, a former British Touring Car Champion, and a star in the FIA European Touring Car Championship since last season. Having driven for the Volvo factory team in 2002, Rydell returned to the Championship this year with ART Engineering, the Italian team which has continued to race the Volvo S60 cars. After a difficult start to the season, new engine developments from the factory have helped to see an improvement over the past two meetings, and the Swedish driver took his first podium of the season on familiar territory in Donington Park.
"Anderstorp is quite a tricky track. It has a very long straight and three or four medium-high speed 80° corners to be negotiated in third gear. You need a very good balanced car to be competitive there. The engine is important on the straight, but not as much as one could expect. A good balance in cornering and under braking can make up for the lack of top speed.
"Setting your car up, you must give priority to stability; you definitely have to avoid oversteer while entering in the corners. Brakes are not a problem, Donington was much worse from that point of view.
"Normally the races in Anderstorp are quite fun to watch at. A lot of overtaking used to take place at the end of the long straight; the spectators sitting in the infield also have quite a good view of the action."
The summer break is over and the FIA European Touring Car Championship drivers are ready for the grand finale. With five drivers covered by only seven points, the remaining four meetings of the series look set for some breathtaking, action-packed races. Gabriele Tarquini and his Autodelta Alfa Romeo 156 Gta are still leading the championship classification, with four race wins and 64 points collected so far. But the two BMW Team Deutschland men, Jörg and Dirk Müller, are closely chasing Tarquini, being only two and six points behind respectively. Fourth and fifth in the classification are Andy Priaulx of the BMW Team Great Britain and Tarquini's team-mate Nicola Larini; they both are seven points from the lead.
When the ETCC visited Anderstorp last year, Larini dominated the first race on a wet track, while Jörg Müller scored his and BMW's first success of the season in a drying Race 2, overtaking Rickard Rydell's Volvo during the last lap. The only title contender who has not yet scored a race win, Larini is eager to repeat that result. The Italian driver will carry the minimum 10-kg ballast, while his rivals will have more: 20 kg Priaulx and Jörg Müller, 30 kg Tarquini, 40 kg Dirk Müller.
Four Swedish drivers will take part in their home round. Regular ETCC competitor Rickard Rydell will be joined by his fellow countrymen Tomas Engström, Niklas Karlsson and Johan Stureson.
ZANARDI TESTED A RAVAGLIA BMW AGAIN
Once more, Alessandro Zanardi sat behind the wheel of a Ravaglia Motorsport BMW 320i, for a test in Adria. The former Formula Cart double champion tested along with the team's regular driver Antonio García. In his 2003 car, the young Spaniard set the fastest time with a lap of 1:22.2, while Zanardi was clocked at 1:24.2 in a 2002-spec car. This was the third time Zanardi has tested a Ravaglia BMW, aiming for a possible participation in the final FIA ETCC meeting of the season in Monza. "We had a positive impression," Roberto Ravaglia said.
"It's not easy to compare the times, because the cars were so much different and Zanardi's was 50 kg heavier due to the assisting driving system. I think that he's only half-a-second slower." Over the coming weeks, the team will organise another test, in which Zanardi will finally drive a 2003 car.
WORRIED TARQUINI HOPES FOR RAIN
Current Championship leader Gabriele Tarquini has never raced in Anderstorp before. "It is one of the few tracks I don't know. I have to wait until Thursday, when I'll walk around for a couple of recognition laps. However our engineers say that this is not a good track for us, because there are a few long and rounded corners that do not suit our cars. There is a long straight, which should enhance our top speed, but it is accessed through a slow corner. I hope we won't struggle there as we did in Brno," a worried Tarquini declared, adding : "Last year Nicola (Larini) won the first race in the rain. If it will rain again, it will be good for us. But it has to be real rain, because when is drizzly and the track is slippery, the BMWs have the advantage."
THE MÜLLERS ARE READY TO ATTACK
Last year Jörg and Dirk Müller had very different destinies in Anderstorp. While Jörg managed to score BMW's first win in the Championship, Dirk saw his weekend jeopardised when he went off during the first race. "The drying track conditions helped me to win," Jörg admits. "However I believe that BMW can win again this year. The Alfa Romeo cars will be faster in qualifying, and we have to see how it will be possible to beat them in the races. We must wait until their tyres begin to wear off." Dirk is also confident: "I'm looking forward to it; last year I was quick, I just had bad luck. I love the track and I feel very confident for the final part of the season. The fight for the title is great and from now on, anyone who makes mistakes is out of contention. I'm optimistic because the 40-kg ballast should not be such a great handicap there."
INTENSIVE TESTING FOR SEAT SPORT
The SEAT Sport Team undertook two different tests this week: Frank Diefenbacher was in Valencia while his team-mate Jordi Gené tested in Barcelona two days later. The Spanish team focused on the car's set up: "It was a good test, because we did not suffer from any technical problems. We have new ideas for the qualifying set up, although the development of the engine has been delayed a bit," Diefenbacher commented. It is likely that the new rear axle developed by SEAT Sport will not be ready in time for Anderstorp. "We should have it from Oschersleben onwards," said Diefenbacher. "I really don't know what to expect from the Swedish race, because I don't have the slightest idea of how the track looks, or if it will suit our car."
RYDELL: WE HAVE A GOOD CHANCE
Rickard Rydell and Volvo never came so close to claiming their first ETCC win as in Anderstorp last year. The Swedish driver led the second race from the start, but could not prevent Jörg Müller from passing him a few corners before the end. "This is definitely the best track for Volvo," Rydell said. "And not because it's Swedish, but because it has a few medium-high speed corners, in which the S60 is very good. I believe this will be the most positive meeting for us, even better than Donington, where I was classified third. We also have a few updates in the car, such as modified chassis and new engines." Rydell will fly back to Sweden on Monday from Australia, where he is currently testing in view of the Bathurst 1000 race, in which he will share his car with New Zealander Paul Radisich, double winner of the FIA Touring Car World Cup in 1993 and 1994.
TWO SWEDISH SEATS FOR STURESON AND KARLSSON
The Podium SEAT Sport Sweden team, a regular competitor in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, will run its two SEAT Toledo Cupra cars in the FIA ETCC Swedish meeting. The drivers selected for this international debut are Johan Stureson and Niklas Karlsson. Stureson, 30 years old, is one of the team's drivers in the STCC; he is curently lying 12th in the drivers classification, his best result so far was a sixth place. The 29-year old Karlsson, a former Swedish F3 champion, is a main STCC competitor since 2000; last year he was classified third in the drivers championship, with two race wins in a Super Touring Vauxhall Vectra. In the current season he drives a former ETCC Alfa Romeo 156 Gta; he is currently placed ninth in the championship, his best result was a second place.
ENGSTRÖM TO DRIVE A PRO MOTORSPORT HONDA
Swedish driver Tomas Engström will make his first appearance in the FIA European Touring Car Championship at the wheel of the second PRO Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R, alongside regular driver André Couto. 38-year old Engström won two rounds in the 2002 Swedish Championship to finish fifth in the final classification. Having switched to a Honda Civic Type-R, identical to those run by PRO Motorsport in the ETCC, he is currently sixth in the STCC, with one race win. "I'm looking forward to racing in the FIA ETCC," Engström said. "I feel I will have a lot of fun, because Anderstorp is my favourite racetrack and I think it should suit the Honda. I'm in my second season with Honda now, and I wish to show everybody how good the Civic is."
During the 6th LG Super Racing Weekend, which took place at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, only one round of the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup was held, which saw French driver Tristan Gommendy take his first win of the season, ahead of series leader Jaime Melo of Brazil, with Switzerland's Neel Jani third. In the points, this result allowed Melo to keep the lead, six points ahead of Jani, with Gommendy third, a further six points behind. However, before they head to Anderstorp, the Formula Renault V6 drivers will be back in Spa this coming weekend, with two races being held in the context of the 1000 km of Spa.
SRTS HEADS FOR HOME RACE
Swedish Formula Renault V6 team SRTS is heading for their home race at Anderstorp next weekend, when team owner and ex-Le Mans winner Stanley Dickens will field two cars - one for regular driver Edward Sandström with the second driver yet to be announced. "I think we have a good chance at Anderstorp," he said. "This is the only circuit where Edward has former experience and he is really commited to do well. At the moment I'm working hard to find a good team-mate for him." SRTS have raced in the FIA Sportscar Championship for two years, winning the SR2-class in 2001. When Renault introduced their new single-seater, Stanley decided to change direction. "One reason was the concept itself - I think Renault is offering a very good championship for young drivers. As a package, the LG Super Racing Weekend is also attractive for teams and sponsors."
SRTS started the season with two Swedish drivers - Thed Björk and Edward Sandström. Thed raced successfully in the SRTS Lola sportscar during 2001 and took part in last year's FIA F3000 Championship. Edward had no previous international experience, but was a four-time race winner in the Swedish Touring Car Championship in 2002. Due to financial problems, Björk had to leave after just two meetings, having scored the team's best result to date with sixth at Barcelona. However, on home ground, the SRTS team hopes to find its way to the podium.