Swedish Rally: Mitsubishi preview

Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05s Head To The Snow Rovanperä and Galli lead Mitsubishi's assault in Sweden The Swedish Rally is the country's biggest sporting event, for it is a unique challenge and one of the most daunting in the FIA World ...

Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05s Head To The Snow
Rovanperä and Galli lead Mitsubishi's assault in Sweden

The Swedish Rally is the country's biggest sporting event, for it is a unique challenge and one of the most daunting in the FIA World Rally Championship. It is the only round of the series in which sub-zero temperatures are guaranteed. The snow-covered forest tracks of central Sweden demand special driving techniques, notably the ability to lean the car on snow banks - if the snow is deep enough - and the use of special studded tires. The tires provide phenomenal levels of grip and contribute to some of the highest average speeds of the season, and yet few rallies are more likely to invite a driving error. The fact that the stages are well-known to the numerous local drivers is yet another hurdle that visitors have to surmount.

After a points-scoring debut with the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports team in Monte-Carlo, Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen once again lead the team's assault on the forthcoming Swedish Rally, the second round of the series and the only true winter event in the Championship. "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore get their first taste of 2005 competition in the second Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 and the crews will be looking for a solid performance on the car's first outing on snow.

"One very significant thing to say about Sweden is the volume and quality of the world rally car entries", said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports. "Our expectation for Sweden is much the same as it was for Monte-Carlo; two cars at the finish, in the points, and if we can get one in the top five we will be happy".

Adding to his comments, Technical Director, Mario Fornaris said: "It will be very tough competition because we expect a lot of good world rally cars in Sweden, but on the other hand we have improved since last year. Our test mainly focused on the new dampers, suspension set-up and tires and I am happy with these results. At the moment it seems the weather in Sweden can change from day to day, so we will have to wait and see what the conditions are like when arrive".

Mitsubishi driver Harri Rovanperä has previously contested the Swedish Rally on six occasions and while results are mixed, it is nevertheless a rally the Finn looks forward to and one which brings back fond memories. In 2001, he and Risto Pietiläinen registered their first-ever World Championship rally victory in this event and followed it up with a second position the following year. Having not competed here in 2004, the pair is looking forward to powering their Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 through the snowy and frozen forests north of the host town of Karlstad.

"Sweden is absolutely one of my favorite rallies. "After the test we can say we have the best set-up available to us, but at the moment it's obviously difficult to know exactly what the conditions will be like", said Harri. "With proper winter conditions, ice and snow, it is a great rally to drive and one that's also really fast. After Monte-Carlo I'm feeling confident for the future".

"Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore - who spent the weekend with the team in Monte-Carlo - get back behind the wheel competitively for the first time this season. This will be Gigi's fifth outing in Sweden and his first in World Rally Car machinery, making the task ahead all the more challenging. The Italians did however compete in a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution last year and finished fifth of the registered contenders.

"We did two days of testing in the north of Sweden in December and I was very satisfied with my driving style and, for me, I have always driven on Pirelli tires in this rally so I know them very well. There is no comparison between Group N and the world rally car", said Gigi. "With the Lancer WRC you can drive very cleanly; you can take good lines, brake late, change gear in the middle of corners, everything is possible. With Group N cars, you have to drive much more sideways, but it is a production car, so this is normal. Our goal this year is to help with the development of the car, but it is going to be very interesting for me to compare my performance and tire choice against Harri, who knows this event well and has won it before".

The Swedish Rally provides fresh challenge for cars and crews, as it is the only round contested on snow. Based in its traditional home in Karlstad, 250 kilometers west of Stockholm, the Swedish Rally is one of the fastest in the 16-round series, despite being driven on what is imagined to be the slipperiest and most unstable surface. Studded tires provide the means to drive at high speed on snow and ice and, surprisingly, the level of grip equals if not exceeds what is found on gravel. Ideally, deep snow banks on the side of the road provide a means for the drivers to scrub speed, adding to the spectacle of one of the most impressive events in the series. In recent years, conditions have become warmer, but winter seems to have finally arrived and snow has fallen in the Värmland area of Sweden and, while the organizer doesn't anticipate there being much snow, conditions are expected to be cold and frozen enough to ensure the rally provides its unique conditions.

The 2005 Uddeholm Swedish Rally kicks off in traditional fashion in what is normally a cold and frosty town square in Karlstad on Thursday evening. The first wheel is however turned in anger on the morning of Friday February 11 when the crews head out for two loops of three stages and the first run around the 1.86 kilometer super special stage at Hagfors, also the venue for the single service area. After Friday's shortest leg, Saturday presents the longest day and covers seven stages and 139.53 competitive kilometers. Two of the stages are repeated and again, the leg is rounded off with the crowd-pleasing super special. On Sunday, the action is no less demanding and the final 113.86 competitive kilometers lay in way. Two loops of three stages, separated by service, will then see the crews back in Karlstad for the finish at 15:04 hrs. In total, the rally covers 20 stages and 359.87 competitive kilometers in a total distance of 1,748.12 kilometers.

27 Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions set to tackle Swedish Rally

Mitsubishi Motors drivers will be strongly represented in the 2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship when the series begins with the Swedish Rally. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has long been the car to beat in production class rallying and some of the sport's most promising drivers will be behind Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution steering wheels in Scandinavia. Four of the nine registered Production Championship crews on the Swedish will use Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions.

Highly-regarded Spaniard Xavier Pons could well be Mitsubishi's top performer in his Lancer Evolution, after proving his mettle with two PWRC wins in 2004.

"For me it is easier to drive on Tarmac, but it is important to learn and I hope the Swedish can be a good rally for us too", said the Spaniard. "Still, I am not thinking so much to win here".

Another of Mitsubishi's front-runners should be the gifted Italian Angelo Medeghini. He has plenty of international experience and a strong record in World Rally Cars behind him, and he is impressed with the Lancer Evolution.

"This will be a difficult rally for us, even though we did the Arctic Rally in Finland for practice", he said. "The conditions are very different. The important thing is to finish the rally and score points, and not worry about the local drivers".

Japan's Fumio Nutahara and Italian Riccardo Errani will also be challenging strongly for points in their Lancer Evolutions, aiming to make the most of their cars' proven reliability.

A range of talented drivers outside the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship will also drive Lancer Evolutions, aiming pure and simple for production class victory on a rally that has long been a noted test of driving skill. They include Swede Oscar Svedlund, Finland's Jussi Välimäki and the Czech Republic's rising star Jan Kopecký.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Harri Rovanpera , Oscar Svedlund , Risto Pietilainen , Jussi Valimaki , Jan Kopecky , Guido D'Amore , Fumio Nutahara , Xavier Pons , Riccardo Errani