Loix and Schwarz give Hyundai solid Swedish finish. A determined drive by Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer on the Swedish Rally, the second round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, ...
Loix and Schwarz give Hyundai solid Swedish finish.
A determined drive by Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer on the Swedish Rally, the second round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, awarded well-deserved finishes of 10th and 13th positions respectively overall.
The Swedish Rally is the only true winter event of the championship and this year it has lived up to its reputation. Only a few days before the event started, the host city of Karlstad was snow-free and a sudden drop in temperature left the stages in a condition that crews had hoped for - a thick layer of snow with a solid ice base and snow banks lining the road.
The Hyundai crews drove confidently and solidly from the opening day, all spending time working to find an optimum set-up throughout the event to improve the performance of their Accent WRC"s. Freddy Loix climbed to seventh position by special stage eight on leg one, but the speedy Citroen's of Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz stormed back up the leaderboard stealing two places and offering Freddy ninth position.
On leg two the 32-year-old Belgian confidently defended his position despite the disruption caused by an accident between the Peugeots of Jusso Pykalisto and Harri Rovanpera. Loix and Smeets continued to make changes to the suspension set-up of their Accent WRC" throughout leg two and into leg three, and by SS16, the penultimate stage of the rally, Loix had found a good set-up permitting a much steadier and more competitive drive.
"It's true, we did spend a lot of time throughout the rally trying to find a good suspension and diff set-up and by leg three it was good and I really felt I could drive more competitively," said Freddy. "I was happy with my performance on the last day and if we had started with a car like this we could have had a fantastic rally. We lost a lot on the first day on set-up and once we had the performance and handling sorted to take some time back, we just ran out of stages.
Freddy added: "The Accent has excellent potential and it is great to drive but we just have to make sure we do the work before the events so we can make the most of it and really challenge the Fords. Of course it is sad not to score points here but we can see that we were closing in on the Citroëns and Fords at the end of the rally."
Team-mates Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer had a more difficult rally, largely handicapped by their road position. A testing first day steadily improved as revised settings allowed the pair to push harder and gain three places by the end of the leg. Unfortunately acting as a 'sweeper' by running first of the road on leg two meant that Schwarz invested a disproportional amount of effort into clearing loose snow for the cars behind, leaving a track with more grip and traction for his competitors. Despite being hindered he still managed to gain a further three positions to reach 13th which he defended until the end.
Armin was philosophical about the rally: "At least we got both cars to the end unlike in Monte Carlo and I know I could have done better if I had been able to get a set-up that worked properly in these conditions. It's disappointing we couldn't push harder earlier on in the rally but I know there is so much more in the car."
"I don't know much about Turkey - I don't know the roads or the conditions," said Armin, looking ahead to the next event. "I have been told it is like Cyprus but we'll just have to wait and see. The good thing is that nobody else knows what it is like. For myself I am looking forward to New Zealand which is an event I like and know well. The political situation needs to be resolved before I can even begin to think seriously about my prospects in Turkey."
Freddy added: "I should be quite happy in Turkey as I have always gone well in Greece and Cyprus. I think the car is very good on rough events and it will be interesting because no team has any experience there which means we all start on a level playing field."
News from our rivals
The third leg of the rally saw only one incident on SS14 when Janne Tuohino (Ford) went over a crest too fast and went off the road after hitting a snow bank. It caused delays for Freddy Loix and Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) who contested the stage immediately after Tuohino. Didier Auriol (Skoda) lost four minutes on the final stage of the day when he was plagued with gearbox troubles. At the head of the field, Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot), who led the rally from the start, won with a huge 50 second advantage over his nearest rival Tommi Makinen (Subaru) in second. Richard Burns (Peugeot) took the final podium position promoting the manufacturer into second place on the points table, behind its fellow French rivals Citroen which holds a 2-point lead.
The third round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship takes teams to Turkey for the first rally outside the European Union and the first gravel event of the season. This is Turkey's inaugural inclusion in the world series and runs from 28 February - 2 March, based out of the Mediterranean tourist resort Kemer, 40km south of Antalya, in the Turkish Riviera.