Rally Sweden is classed as the FIA World Rally Championship’s only true winter rally.
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg and Eric Camilli head to the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship with very different objectives, but both will be keen to make their mark on the snow-covered stages of Rally Sweden.
The event is classed as the championship’s only true winter rally, but milder winters have seen the crews contend with more than just snow banks of late.
A full snow rally can see the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs reach mind-blowing speeds as Michelin’s X-Ice North tyres bite through the snow to capture grip on the hard ice below. But the warmer winters have resulted in a lack of ice and it is not unusual to see exposed gravel on a number of stages.
Everyone knows that Rally Sweden is one of the highlights of my year.
Should that be the case, the rally can take on a whole different nature and the most discerning crews will want to limit the exposed gravel damaging the 384 tungsten-tipped steel studs that cover each tyre.
One region that always boasts a lot of snow is Norway, and Østberg will be keen to make his mark when the event crosses into his homeland on Friday.
The Norwegian has historically performed well in Sweden and came tantalisingly close to winning the event on his debut with the Fiesta RS WRC – missing out to Mikko Hirvonen by a mere 6.5 seconds in 2011.
Partnered by compatriot co-driver Ola Fløene, the pairing will be looking to further perfect their new partnership and will be well prepared having completed a number of tests in the lead-up to the rally.
Having completed a one and a half day test with the team, the Norwegians will also contest this weekend’s Rally Finnskog. Always a contender for a podium in Sweden, Østberg is doing all he can to ensure that will be the case again this year.
By contrast, next week will see Camilli contest his first ever snow rally. On his first venture to Sweden, the Frenchman will have a lot to learn and will focus on gaining as much experience as possible.
With fellow Frenchman Nicolas Klinger calling the notes, the pairing also completed a one and a half day test with the team to familiarise themselves with the art of winter rallying.
Using the event to gain the experience that could see him well placed in future years, Camilli is looking forward to the new challenges that lay in wait.
Following the news that the Fiesta was named Europe’s best-selling small car for the fourth year running, M-Sport are keen to continue the Blue Oval’s success next week.
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Mads Østberg said: “Everyone knows that Rally Sweden is one of the highlights of my year. Going over the border into Norway makes it a home event for me and we certainly want to give the home crowd something to cheer about!
“We had a good test this week and we’ll also contest Rally Finnskog this weekend which will give us some more valuable seat time ahead of the rally. Experience counts for a lot in this game, so it’s great for Ola and I to have some more competitive seat time together as we’re now very close to where we want to be.
“We’ll have to wait and see what the conditions are like before we know if we’ll have any advantages or disadvantages from running fourth on the road, but I don’t think it will cause us too much of an issue.
“I have a lot of good memories with the Fiesta RS WRC in Sweden and I want to add to those memories next week. If everything is perfect, then I see no reason why we can’t be challenging for the podium positions. That is certainly our aim, and if the opportunity is there, I’m always going to push for the win!”
Éric Camilli said: “A big challenge is waiting for me next week, but I am really looking forward to experiencing my first snow rally. There will be a lot to learn, but I’m motivated to learn as much as I can.
“We had a day and a half testing with the team this week and my first experiences were fantastic. Driving on snow gives you a real sensation of speed and I think that I am going to really enjoy this rally.
“We learnt a lot during the test, but I also know that I have much to learn before I will be able to challenge for the top positions. Mads is something of an expert on this surface and he gave me some advice during the test. I’m sure that I’ll continue to learn from him on the rally as well.
“First, we want to gain the experience that will allow us to be competitive in the future. But if the confidence is there and we have a good feeling in the car, I will always try to see what times are possible.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “Following some encouraging performances at the opening round in Monte-Carlo, we go to Sweden with our confidence high. Mads is always a contender on snow and he has achieved some fantastic results with the Fiesta in the past – coming close to winning the event in 2011.
“The whole team can see his ambition. He has grown as a driver and he is hungry for victory. Next week provides him with an opportunity to secure that victory and if everything works in his favour then he certainly has the potential to deliver it.
“By contrast, this will be a big challenge for Eric. This will be his first ever snow rally on only his second outing with a world rally car so there will be a lot to learn. His target is to gain the experience that will see him compete for the top positions in the future.”
M-Sport World Rally Team