Peugeot takes the 307 WRC onto conquered territory. After its encouraging result in Monte Carlo with the new 307, Peugeot Sport turns its attention now to Round 2 of the 2004 World Rally Championship in Sweden. The French squad has only...
Peugeot takes the 307 WRC onto conquered territory.
After its encouraging result in Monte Carlo with the new 307, Peugeot Sport turns its attention now to Round 2 of the 2004 World Rally Championship in Sweden. The French squad has only excellent memories of this spectacular, high-speed event where it is unbeaten since 2000! Marcus Grönholm, the man who notched up three of the Peugeot 206 WRC's four successes in Karlstad, will be looking to add to his personal harvest of victories with the 307 WRC. The car is still in its early days yet it has already given glimpses of its potential. Freddy Loix, another big Swedish Rally fan, will also be aiming for a top result in the second encounter of the season.
Given all the data collected in the course of the recent Monte Carlo Rally, Peugeot Sport has good reason to look forward to the coming season with a certain amount of serenity. The icy Alps effectively provided the backdrop to a somewhat encouraging start to the year for the brand new Peugeot 307 WRC. Marcus Grönholm led for four of the opening day's five stages and also recorded top-three times on ten of the twelve stages run, including three fastests. The combination of the Finn's 4th place at the finish and Freddy Loix's 5th place were the fruit of a solid debut performance from the 307. "It is the first time we will leave Monaco with a smile on our faces," declared Peugeot Sport Director Corrado Provera at the Monaco harbour-side finish. "Both Peugeot 307 WRCs reached the finish, in a good position and in the points. The new car is quick out of the box, and Marcus' performance was very good if you consider that this is a rally he has never liked."
It will be a contrasting situation for Marcus as the series moves on to early February's visit to Sweden. On this highly specific event, the only round of the championship which has never yet seen the Scandinavians beaten, the two-times World Champion boasts a remarkable run of success with Peugeot. It's here that he claimed the first WRC win of his career, which was also the maiden win of the Peugeot 206 WRC. The Finn triumphed again in 2002 and 2003 and, when he failed to win in 2001, top spot fell to his teammate Harri Rovanperä. So, will the 307 WRC be able to take over where the 206 WRC left off and continue its predecessor's four-year unbeaten record?
Organised in the Värmland region, the Swedish Rally is the only 100% ice/snow competition of the calendar (excepting exceptional climatic conditions). When snow falls in abundance, the stages are lined with 'walls' on which the drivers can lean. Without these protective walls, the going becomes significantly more delicate. The stages themselves are generally very fast; Marcus Grönholm won last year's rally at an average speed of 116 kph and has always excelled in the art of mastering the long, breathtaking high-speed slides that are a hallmark of this event. "I do enjoy this rally," agrees the Peugeot driver. "I have a good feeling in Sweden, even if the stages are rather quick in places. Our result in Monte Carlo was quite encouraging. It allowed us to see that the 307 WRC is both competitive and reliable. Judging by the way our pre-event testing went, I am very optimistic for Sweden."
Freddy Loix is one of the few non-Scandinavians to benefit from significant past experience of the Swedish Rally. From a total of five starts, he boasts four finishes, including three inside the top-ten (9th in 1999, 8th in 2000, 13th in 2001, 10th in 2003). He also put in a superb performance in 2002 when, despite competing with his left foot in plaster, he figured in 4th position overall for Hyundai with just two stages remaining before being cruelly sidelined by a suspension problem. It was an incontestably strong performance that he will be doing all in his power to repeat this time round, for the Swedish Rally is quite simply his favourite round of the championship: "For me, it's the best event on the calendar. It really is superb for drivers and I'm very much looking forward to this year's rally. Pre-event testing with the 307 went very well and I feel quite confident," concludes Freddy, echoing the optimism of his new team-mate, Marcus Grönholm.