The 'Reds' gear up for wintry Sweden Although ice and snow was once again absent from the stages of this year's Monte Carlo Rally, wintry conditions shouldn't escape the Swedish Rally, the second round of the 2008 World Rally ...
The 'Reds' gear up for wintry Sweden
Although ice and snow was once again absent from the stages of this year's Monte Carlo Rally, wintry conditions shouldn't escape the Swedish Rally, the second round of the 2008 World Rally Championship. For the calendar's only all-out winter fixture, Citroen Total has entered C4 WRCs for Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti.
The line-up of Citroen entries in Sweden will also include a privately-entered C4 WRC for Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk and a Xsara WRC entered by Conrad Rautenbach/David Senior. These cars are prepared and run PH Sport with support from Citroen Sport Technologies technicians.
The event continues to be based in Sweden's Varmland region but this season's visit features a significantly revised format, since some 60 per cent of the stages are new compared with recent years. Indeed, the organisers have profited from the scope offered by the concept of remote service zones to strike further afield and return to classic territory that hasn't been used since 2000.
The Swedish Rally's gently undulating, flowing roads have long been a hit with the drivers who tend to cite the event amongst their favourites. "Competing on these extremely fast, icy stages is sheer delight," confirms Sebastien Loeb. "Controlling long, high-speed power-slides, setting up the car for corners and using the snowbanks to stay on line is a great experience. When the studs give good grip, it really is a fantastic rally."
Dani Sordo takes up his team-mate's last point to highlight one of the difficulties inherent in the WRC's annual trip to Sweden: "When the studs bite, you can do what you want with your car and it's tremendous fun. However, if a coating of snow prevents the studs from digging in, it can be more difficult to be precise in your driving. And when you add the extremely high speeds we reach in Sweden into the equation, then this clearly isn't an easy event. It calls for significant experience of this sort of terrain and it's no coincidence that few non-Nordic drivers have won in Karlstad. This will be my third attempt and my objective will be to score points for Citroen."
"Our winter testing programme included preparation for this highly specific event," says Citroen Sport's Technical Manager Xavier Mestelan-Pinon. "A long list of parameters has to be taken into account, such as the subzero temperatures, the high average speeds, the presence of snowbanks and the long reaction time between the moment the driver turns the wheel and the moment the car responds. This phenomenon is due to the narrow tyres we use and the small amount of rubber that is in contact with the ground. Without snow, it can be a particularly tough event for the dampers. When frozen dirt becomes exposed, the going gets much rougher and harder on the mechanicals. This year's regulations dictate just one type of studded tyre, the Pirelli Sottozero, whereas in previous years we were able to choose by how much the studs protruded from the tread blocks. That's an important factor and, like the other teams, we lack hindsight..."
The Swedish Rally will see Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena line up for the start of their 100th world class event together: "It's a nice round figure, but it's not that important to me," observes Seb. "Our objective will be to try to win, which won't be easy. For one thing, we will start the weekend running first on the road and that can often be a handicap in Sweden. Our rivals will also be out to draw level after the Monte Carlo Rally and I'm expecting a close fight. Sure, it would be nice to celebrate our 100th start with a win but scoring points in both championships will also be important and I will base my pace on the way the rally unfolds..."
Event notes: 2008 Swedish Rally @57th Swedish Rally (February 7-10): round 2 of 15
Surface: snow and ice
Where: Karlstad, Sunne and Hagfors
Technical matters: The engine and chassis of the C4s both contested the Monte Carlo Rally. They were then sealed before being sent to Karlstad. The engine will go on to compete in Mexico. Two gearbox/differential packages are authorised per driver. Five sets of dampers and five hub carriers are authorised per event.
Tyres: a draw will decide the allocation of tyres to teams by the FIA. Only one type of tyre and one stud choice will be available. The number of tyres that can be used during shakedown is limited. It is mandatory to fit fresh tyres before each group of stages. It is possible to carry two spares.
New: the programme includes three stops at remote service zones: in Sunne (Friday) and Hagfors (Saturday and Sunday).214.10km (62.9%) of the stages are new compared with 2007, including 118.34km on the first day which haven't been visited since 2000 or 2001. Only the super-special (SS1/8) and the Vargåsen (SS11/14) and Lesjofors (SS16/19) stages are identical to those used last year.