Rally Sweden, the second round of the World Rally Championship, gets underway later today (Thursday).
Reigning champion Sebastien Ogier took an easy win at the first round in Monte Carlo. Legendary nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, in a one-off drive for Citroen, ran his former protege close, setting some startling times in the early stages, but damaged suspension ended his run.
That left Ogier clear to take a comfortable win from Volkswagen teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen.
Ogier became only the second non-Scandinavian to win in Sweden in 2013, but his job is made harder this year by new rules which put the championship leader first on the road for the first two days. Clearing a path for everyone else to follow will slow him down.
Latvala, winner for the third time last year, will be doing his best to capitalise on Ogier’s disadvantage. “My strategy for Sweden is quite straightforward,” he told WRC.com. “I’ll drive as fast and as well as I can.”
“But if it looks like I don’t have the speed or the confidence to fight for the victory, then it’s more important for the championship to understand the situation, stay calm, and try to take points instead.”
Despite roads covered in snow and sheet ice, Rally Sweden is one of the fastest on the calendar, with wide, sweeping stages. Huge jumps add to the spectacle, but can catch out the unwary. As can the snow banks that line the stages. There hasn’t been much snow in the region recently, which could lead to problems with tyres, as well.
It’s hard to see past the dominant Volkswagen trio for the win and podium positions in Sweden, though the massed ranks of Fords, Citroens and Hyundais are perfectly capable of fighting at the front.
Rally Sweden finishes on Sunday 15 February. For more information click here.