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The Uddeholm Swedish Rally Round 2 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship 1 - 3 February 2001 After one of the driest Rallye Monte Carlos in recent memory, the FIA World Rally Championship switches to snow for its second round, this weekend's...

The Uddeholm Swedish Rally
Round 2 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship
1 - 3 February 2001

After one of the driest Rallye Monte Carlos in recent memory, the FIA World Rally Championship switches to snow for its second round, this weekend's Swedish Rally. Citroen's decision late last week not to pursue an appeal against Sebastien Loeb's time penalty in Monte Carlo handed that rally win (a record 24th at WRC level) to Tommi Mäkinen, who thus leads the drivers' standings as the crews head north to Sweden.

If history is any guide, Mäkinen must start as one of the favourites for the Swedish, purely on grounds of his nationality. Despite the World Rally Championship's international flavour, no non-Scandinavian has ever won this event, although Spain's Carlos Sainz has finished on the podium five times in seven starts. He and his Ford team-mate Colin McRae will probably take the fight to the locals, but Peugeot's two Finnish drivers, Marcus Grönholm and Harri Rovanperä, have maintained the Scandinavian lock-out over the last two years and the French marque will be keen to score a hat-trick in Sweden after a disappointing Rallye Monte Carlo. And there remains the 'wild card' of Citroen - after the Xsara's strong showing two weeks ago, local driver Thomas Radstrom is being widely tipped to set fast times on his home event.

SUBARU (1st - 12 points)

Technical: Subaru sends two brand new Impreza WRCs to this event for Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg, but the team has not introduced any major technical revisions since Monte Carlo.

Sporting: Subaru has entered two Impreza WRC2001s for this event, to be driven by regular pilots Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg. Citroen's decision to withdraw its appeal against Sebastien Loeb's time penalty from the Rallye Monte Carlo means that Mäkinen is awarded the victory on the opening round of the season. The four-times world champion thus becomes the first driver ever to win the event four years in succession, and the first driver to reach 24 World Rally Championship wins.

Quotes: Tommi Mäkinen said: "This event is like a big question for us - it's the first time that I've driven in these conditions on Pirelli tyres, but I must say the initial feeling is good and the reliability has been impressive. It was good to be quick so early in Monte Carlo and I think we can make things difficult for the other guys here as well."

Petter Solberg said: "I must say I'm really looking forward to this rally. I was really pleased with how I drove in Monte Carlo and I know I can do good times here as well"

FORD (2nd - 10 points)

Technical: After introducing a raft of revisions to the Focus RS WRC for Monte Carlo, Ford retains basically the same specification on its cars for Sweden. None of the Focus WRCs present are new either.

Sporting: Ford had entered three Focus RS WRC02s for its regular drivers Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, and Markko Märtin, but it was forced to withdraw the latter driver this afternoon after he crashed at this morning's shakedown. The car was heavily damaged at the front-left corner and Ford mechanics had insufficient time to make the necessary repairs. Ford will, however, field a 2001-specification car for young Belgian Francois Duval - he'll dovetail selected World Rally Car appearances with an assault on the Junior World Rally Championship. He won the opening round of the latter series in Monte Carlo.

Quotes: Carlos Sainz said: "I think we've shown over the years that we can be competitive here, but although we've come close we've never actually won the Swedish. I'm looking forward to trying again. During the recce the stages were quite nice with some snow, but if it thaws by Sunday then the second passes over some stages could be quite difficult."

Colin McRae said: "Depending on what the weather does here, I'd say that victory is certainly possible. The car's felt pretty good in testing and if the snow holds or more arrives, I'll be quite happy. I feel really sorry for Marko, though - this was one of the events where he could really have gone well."

PEUGEOT (3rd - 4 points)

Technical: Peugeot have made only a few adjustments to the 206 WRCs for this event - all three of the works cars will now run with the hydraulic anti-roll bars that were fitted to Gilles Panizzi's car in Monte Carlo. The team continues to develop the next evolution of the car, meanwhile - improvements will centre on its abilities in rough surfaces, and homologation in May or June is likely, in time for a debut on the Acropolis Rally.

Sporting: Peugeot has entered three official cars - for reigning world champion Richard Burns, 2000 title-holder Marcus Grönholm and last year's Swedish Rally winner Harri Rovanperä. The team's fourth regular driver Gilles Panizzi will tackle the event in a 206 WRC run by private team Bozian.

Quotes: Richard Burns said: "The team has now extended the steering column and adjusted the amount of travel on the throttle pedal. It's still not perfect but it's not too far off. The thing that's lacking is the real feel of what the car's doing, although I think that'll be less exaggerated in these conditions than it was on dry asphalt in Monte Carlo. With that in mind, I'm hoping that we'll be doing consistently good enough times to get into the top three - if you can be in the top three here, then anything is possible. I'd say Marcus and Harri are favourites though - they're clearly going to push each other along."

Marcus Grönholm said: "I have a good feeling with the car here and I feel confident. Maybe experience of these conditions helps - in our championship in Finland we're doing three or four rallies on snow."

MITSUBISHI

Technical: Mitsubishi Ralliart's three Lancer WRCs will run in basically unchanged specification for this event. Alister McRae has a brand new car for the Swedish.

Sporting: Mitsubishi enters three cars in Sweden - Alister McRae and Francois Delecour are joined in the line-up by young Finn Jani Paasonen. McRae has been suffering from 'flu in the days preceding the event.

Quotes: Alister McRae said: "I'm hopeful that we'll be more competitive here than we were in Monte Carlo. We didn't get such a good set-up for there but in the testing for Sweden the Lancer's felt really good. Of course it's hard to really gauge how good the car is until we see our times against the opposition but I instantly had a good feeling for the handling and the engine on the snowy surfaces."

SKODA

Technical: Skoda continues with the revised pedal boxes in its Octavias for this event. Introduced in Monte Carlo, they hinge the pedals on the floor, not above the drivers' feet. The Czech manufacturer's cars will also feature a different type of brake caliper system from this event.

Sporting: Skoda has entered three Octavia WRCs for this event - regular drivers Kenneth Eriksson and Toni Gardemeister are joined by former World Rally Champion Stig Blomqvist. It's a line-up that's not without pedigree - between them, Eriksson and Blomqvist have won this rally eight times. Gardemeister inadvertently delayed this morning's shakedown when he slid off the stage and got stuck in a snow bank.

Quotes: Kenneth Eriksson said: "I'm quite optimistic for this rally. Obviously I know the conditions very well and I learnt a lot about the Octavia in Monte Carlo. It's got quite a good balance and even though it's quite a big car, the handling is good and that's very important on the snowy surfaces. It'll be a big challenge but I'm looking forward to it."

Toni Gardemeister said: "I think we can aim for a point or two here, because we were in the top ten in Monte Carlo and I'm sure the snow will suit the Octavia better than dry asphalt. I finished in the points here last year and even though it'll be difficult to repeat that, I'll be trying for a similar result."

HYUNDAI

Technical: Hyundai has made only a few changes to the Accent WRC2 for its final scheduled event - the car features revised differential mapping and slight alterations to the dampers. Work continues apace on the WRC3, meanwhile - the new-specification engine that will be fitted in the next evolution is already running on the dynometer.

Sporting: Hyundai fields three Accent WRC2s in Sweden - regulars Armin Schwarz and Freddy Loix are joined by four-times world champion Juha Kankkunen. The Finn will tackle most loose-surface rallies for the team this season. Loix's participation was in some doubt after he broke a bone in his foot in a heavy accident on Rallye Monte Carlo but despite needing crutches outside of the car, the Belgian insists that the injury won't pose too much of a problem on the stages.

Quotes: Freddy Loix said: "My foot doesn't hurt, and the only 'medication' that I'm taking is designed to prevent infection. It's not so bad - I'm trying to get as good a feeling as possible under braking. Probably the hardest thing for me on this rally will be that I haven't had so long in the car beforehand - only 50km, and most of that was spent getting used to the support on my foot."

CITROEN

Technical: Citroen's Xsara WRCs remain technically unchanged for their first 'winter' rally.

Sporting: Citroen sends two Xsara WRCs to this event, to be driven by Sebastien Loeb and Thomas Radstrom. The team elected not to pursue its appeal against Loeb's two-minute penalty on the Rallye Monte Carlo (incurred by changing tyres in the wrong service area), so the young Frenchman has dropped behind Tommi Mäkinen to second overall in that event's final classification.

Quotes: Thomas Radstrom said: "The car feels pretty good here - it's been getting quite a bit better on the snow in the pre-event testing. Of course it should really be too early in the Xsara WRC's life for us to really challenge here but you never now. We'll certainly try as hard as possible and see what we can do."

Sebastien Loeb said: "I'm here for more experience, basically. It will not be easy to repeat the sort of performance that I showed in Monte Carlo but I want to learn how to drive the World Rally Car on snow so I need as many kilometres as possible. The car has felt very nice in testing but I've only been here last year and that was in a challenge-specification Saxo, and we retired on the first day."

OTHER ENTRIES

Several privateer World Rally Car drivers could well inch into the top ten in Sweden - in particular, Sebastian Lindholm (Peugeot 206 WRC) and Janne Tuohino (Ford Focus RS WRC01) will be aiming to embarrass some of the works entries.

The Swedish Rally is the opening round of the FIA Cup for Drivers of Production Cars, the series designed for crews using more standard Group N machinery. Multiple category champion Gustavo Trelles will target yet another title in 2002, but the Uruguayan will have to overcome highly-rated opposition including Alex Fiorio, Toshihiro Arai and former British champion Marko Ipatti.

-wrc-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team