Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle will drive the two DS 3 WRCs entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT at Rally Sweden.
Snow, ice and even more snow! Over the last few weeks, the Hagfors region has enjoyed perfect wintry weather conditions. Very cold temperatures followed heavy snowfall to create a thick layer of icy snow on the roads. And more recent snowfall has consolidated the white covering just a few days from the start.
It is a long time since conditions for the Rally Sweden have been so promising. If the situation doesn’t change in the coming days, the surface should remain consistent throughout the event. The studs will therefore become less worn and all the fans will be treated to a great show!
The 2015-Spec DS 3 WRC put to the test
A few days after making a successful debut at Monte-Carlo, the 2015-spec DS 3 WRC will be faced with another challenge in Sweden. The work on the car’s aerodynamics this winter will give it a significant advantage on these high-speed stages. The engine’s power will be fully unleashed and the drivers will also be able to use the steering wheel-mounted paddles for every gear change.
Featuring the revised rear suspension geometry, which makes the car easier to drive, the 2015-spec DS 3 WRC is significantly quicker and more efficient.
Having claimed podium finishes in Karlstad for the last four years, this is practically Mads Østberg’s home rally. Some of the stages held on Friday cross over the border into Norway and his co-driver Jonas Andersson is Swedish. Mads made his WRC debut in Sweden during the 2006 season, at just 18 years of age. Fourth in Monte-Carlo, he has a good opportunity to shine on the Värmland ice. And to prepare for the forthcoming WRC round as effectively as possible, he will be competing at the Finnskog Rally, the Norwegian Championship event, this Saturday, 7 February in the DS 3 WRC.
In the second car entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, Kris Meeke has more limited experience here. With only one previous appearance at Rally Sweden in 2014, the Briton is less familiar with the snow and icy conditions than the vast majority of his rivals. His performances with the DS 3 WRC would nonetheless suggest he has real potential on this surface.
Five crews will be taking part in DS 3 R5s. Winner of the opening round of the FIA WRC2 Championship, Stéphane Lefebvre continues to learn about rallying at this level with his debut appearance in Sweden. The Frenchman has decided not to nominate this round as one of his points-scoring rallies. Competing in the WRC2 category, Anders Grondal will be one of the favourites. The Swedish drivers Robin Friberg and Thomas Thunström and the Estonian Karl Kruuda have also opted to drive in a DS 3 R5, but they are not competing in the championship. Meanwhile, after finishing on the podium on his first outing in the FIA Junior WRC, the Norwegian Ole-Christian Veiby will be trying to win the two-wheel drive category in a DS 3 R3-MAX.
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “The 2015-spec la DS 3 WRC was very quick on its competitive debut, collecting the majority of the stage wins at the Rallye Monte-Carlo. In Sweden, we’ll be beginning a new chapter. Although the setting is also decidedly wintry here, the conditions will be very different. This event is important for Mads Østberg. This is practically his home round, so he’ll be driving on very familiar roads and on a surface that he enjoys. After a test session, he will be taking part in the Finnskog Rally in Norway to prepare as fully as possible. Kris Meeke will be able to call upon the experience he acquired here in 2014. His aim will be to make the most of his potential with the support of the team.”
Mads Østberg: “Rally Sweden is one of the key moments of my season. I really can’t wait to be there. The last few years have gone pretty well with a series of podiums, including third place last year in the DS 3 WRC. With the experience gained in 2014 and good preparations, I hope to do even better this time around. The new DS 3 WRC is very competitive. It should be a real asset in these conditions. Our starting position won’t give us a particular advantage or disadvantage. Running in fourth place, we know that it won’t be perfect but it won’t be a huge problem either, regardless of the conditions. After a very good rally in 2014, my goal is to fight at the front. This will be my first rally with the 2015-spec DS 3 WRC, so if I’m challenging for the win that would a great performance.”
Kris Meeke: “I was a little bit disappointed after the Rallye Monte-Carlo because we had been quick, but we were unable to convert our competitiveness into a good result. It was nonetheless a very encouraging start. I really enjoyed my first outing in Sweden in 2014. The conditions weren’t perfect as we had fairly high temperatures, but it was still great to drive on these roads. You always have fun in conditions like these! However, as this is the only event on the calendar to be contested on snow, you need several years to acquire enough experience to be able to fight at the front. My realistic target here is to finish in the top five or six. I still need to learn and be consistent. I’ll be driving within my own limits, determined by my personal experience.”
Swedish course with a foray into Norway
After two days of reconnaissance on Tuesday and Wednesday, the drivers will get into their race cars on Thursday, 12 February between 8am and 11.30am for the shakedown held in Råda, next to Hagfors.
The ceremonial start will be held on Thursday evening in Karlstad, followed by a 1.9-kilometre super special stage. The crews will then complete a long road section to Hagfors, where they will spend the night.
After morning service at 7.05am on Friday morning, the crews will tackle two loops of four stages in Sweden with Torsby (14.76km) and then in Norway with Röjden (18.73km), Finnskogen (20.76km) and Kirkenaer (7.07km). Cars will only be authorized to changes tyres during the midday break. The leg will conclude with a second run on the Karlstad super special stage before the cars return to the Hagfors service park at 8.41pm.
On Saturday, four stages identical to those used in 2014 will be completed twice: Fredriksberg (18.15km), Rämmen (22.76km), Hagfors Sprint (1.87km) and Vargåsen (24.63km), with the famous jump over Colin’s Crest. These eight timed stages will be separated by a thirty-minute midday service.
The final leg, during which the running order will use the overall standings of the rally, from the lowest to the top-ranked P1 and P2 drivers, will feature three stages: first of all Lesjöfors, then two runs on Värmullsasen. The second of these will serve as the televised Power Stage, at 12.08pm. The rally is scheduled to finish at 3.00pm in Karlstad.