Peugeot's sights set on a fourth consecutive win in Sweden. After securing points in the 2003 season's curtain raiser in Monte Carlo, reigning manufacturers' champions Peugeot will be looking to harvest a higher score in the second round in...
Peugeot's sights set on a fourth consecutive win in Sweden.
After securing points in the 2003 season's curtain raiser in Monte Carlo, reigning manufacturers' champions Peugeot will be looking to harvest a higher score in the second round in Sweden (February 6-9). Until now, the winter classic has been a happy hunting ground for the Peugeot 206 WRC which has come away from the event with three consecutive wins since 2000, including a one-two finish in 2002. The men who took this trio of victories were Marcus Grönholm (winner in 2000 and 2002) and Harri Rovanperä (winner in 2001), and this year sees the two Finns once again team up with Britain's Richard Burns as the make's nominated drivers.
The Swedish Rally is a perfect illustration of the tremendous variety of surface types that make up the World Rally Championship. The drivers and cars must be capable of performing on asphalt, gravel and snow, as well as in extreme temperatures. Sweden, the sole 100% winter round of the series, fits into the calendar between the Monte Carlo Rally, where conditions can change significantly from one year to the next, and the gravel tracks of the Rally of Turkey, a newcomer to the championship. Whenever conditions are cold and snowy, something that hasn't always been the case in recent years, the Värmland stages are strikingly beautiful, spectacular. and extremely fast. Twelve months ago, Marcus Grönholm completed the distance at an average speed of 114.8 kph, a figure marginally higher than the averages recorded on the championship's asphalt rounds.
The Nordics have long reigned as masters in Sweden and, while Carlos Sainz made history by becoming the first non-Scandinavian to win in Finland in 1990, the locals continue to maintain their stranglehold on the Karlstad- based event.
That's clearly a situation Marcus Grönholm is happy to live with. He has fond recollections of his win here in 2000, the first victory in world class rallying of his career and also the maiden success of the Peugeot 206 WRC. Last year, Marcus was in a class of his own and he has always felt comfortable in Sweden. This year's battle promises to be particularly fierce and, after his performance on the Monte Carlo Rally, which he led before losing time with an off on SS9, the defending World Champion is certain to be as motivated as ever.
For Harri Rovanperä, the Swedish Rally will mark the debut of his 2003 World Championship campaign. Two years ago, just like his countryman Marcus the previous year, he notched up his first WRC victory on this event, while 2002 saw him cross the line in second place behind Marcus Grönholm.
Richard Burns stands out as one of the drivers most likely to one day break the Scandinavians' monopoly in Sweden. Last year, while competing in his second outing at the wheel of the 206 WRC, the 2001 World Champion lost contact with the leading pack after an off on Leg 1. His misadventure saw him drop to 18th overall, yet he fought back strongly to clinch 4th place at the flag, only narrowly missing out on a place on the podium..