A high-speed adventure on ice and snow: when Volkswagen Motorsport starts out on the Rally Sweden from 7 to 10 February, it will be taking on its second major challenge in the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). At the wheel of the 315-hp (232 kW) Polo R WRC, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) will grapple with the only event this season to be held completely on ice and snow. The rally, with its headquarters in Karlstad and Service Park in Hagfors, represents a gruelling test for the drivers and the team’s technology: the rally cars are consistently pushed to their very limits, despite temperatures plummeting to between 10 and 20 degrees below freezing. The icy cold is no obstacle for the enthusiastic fans, however: armed with tents and camp fires, which they erect along the side of the route, they defy the conditions to cheer the wild drifts and huge jumps produced by their rally heroes. Another feature of the event is that the route for this iconic rally also takes the teams over the border from Sweden into Norway.
“After a good start to the season, the entire team now heads to the next challenge, the Rally Sweden, fully motivated and full of confidence. However, everyone in the team is well aware that the good result achieved in Monte Carlo is not yet a true indication of where we lie compared to the opposition,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “The Rally Sweden is totally unique. The speed on the ice and snow is very high. This is only possible with extreme studded tyres, which are only used once a year. However, every rally is a test for the team. The processes in Monte Carlo recently were top-class. We want to follow on from this in Sweden and to continue developing from rally to rally.”
Snow, ice, bitter cold: the Rally Sweden represents a unique challenge
At the Rally Monte Carlo it was the all-important question: which tyre to use. In Sweden, conditions make the lives of the drivers and engineers significantly easier. The only tyres available to the drivers are studded winter tyres. Rather than tyre selection, the bitter cold around Hagfors and Karlstad will play a crucial role: initial forecasts are predicting temperatures of –10° Celsius for the weekend of 7 to 10 February. This will provide a stern test for the team at the nine scheduled services, and will put man and material through its paces during the 338.91 timed kilometres awaiting the Polo R WRC.
After a spectator stage in Karlstad on Thursday, the rally heads into the Hagfors region on Friday, where Saturday’s special stages are held to the east of the city. Special stages along the border with Norway are scheduled for Saturday. The stages are all similar: largely lined by walls of snow, which the drivers “lean on” every so often, the route takes the competitors at high speeds through forests and past frozen lakes. 2012 winner, 2013 “powered by Volkswagen”: Jari-Matti Latvala
Drivers from northern Europe traditionally have a ‘home’ advantage at the Rally Sweden: in 2004, multiple world champion Sébastien Loeb (Citroën) became the first and only driver to date from outside of Finland, Norway and Sweden to win the rally since it was first held in 1950. 2012 winner: Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila, who switched to Volkswagen in the winter.
Quotes ahead of the Rally Sweden
Jari-Matti Latvala, Polo R WRC #7 “I really like the Rally Sweden. The event requires a very quick and flowing driving style on Swedish forest roads. There is nothing to criticise about the event – with one exception: it can get very cold there, with temperatures reaching as low as minus 20 or even minus 30 degrees. Up to now I have driven 500 kilometres on snow in the Polo R WRC. However, we will slot in another test day on snow before the Rally Sweden. The car works very well in these conditions. I am already very happy with the way it feels to drive. I have fond memories of the Rally Sweden, such as my very first WRC victory in 2008 and, of course, my win there last year. My goal for this season is to finish in the top five.”
Sébastien Ogier, Polo R WRC #8 “The season could hardly have started better for us. Heading to Sweden with 18 points to our name is a very nice position to be in. This allows us to relax a little. However, we are now faced with a new rally. Let’s see what we are capable of on this surface. It is hard to predict what awaits us there. We will have to wait until after the first few special stages. I really like the Rally Sweden. If the snow conditions are good, it is really good fun driving there. The average speed is pretty high, and the grip on studded tyres is fantastic. I just love pulling off big drifts with a rally car on ice.”
Volkswagen in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
In entering the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Volkswagen is adding another chapter to its motorsport success story. Volkswagen claimed overall victory at the Rally Dakar with the Race Touareg in 2009, 2010 and 2011 – celebrating a hat-trick of titles at the toughest marathon rally in the world. The Polo R WRC is the first World Rally Car produced by the Wolfsburg-based company, which now lines up with its own works team in the pinnacle of rallying. The series offers Volkswagen the opportunity to prove itself on a global platform in direct sporting competition. No model is more suited to the challenge than the Polo – one of Volkswagen’s most heavily produced and distributed models in the world.
Did you know ...
... the Rally Sweden was first held in 1950 and will be staged for the 60th time in 2013? Since 1950, only three years have passed, in which the “Sweden” did not form part of the World Rally Championship: in 1974 it was cancelled due to the oil crisis, in 1990 due to poor weather, and in 2009 when the FIA rotation system meant it was not included on the calendar.
... the “poor weather” that prevented the 1990 Rally Sweden from taking place actually refers to it being too mild? Back then, there was too little snow to stage a real “Sweden”.
... the Rally Sweden is a real home event for Scandinavian drivers? Only once has the rally, which is the only race on the calendar that is always held on ice and snow, been won by a man from outside Sweden, Norway and Finland. In 2004, Sébastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena (F/MC, Citroën) were victorious.
... Volkswagen consultant Carlos Sainz boasts a remarkable successful record at the Rally Sweden, with just one thing missing: a win? “El Matador” finished runner-up in Sweden on four occasions between 1996 and 1999, and also stepped onto the podium after finishing third in 2001 and 2002.
... the Volkswagen team is excellently prepared for the icy temperatures at the Rally Sweden? Taking the approach that layers are the best way to combat the cold, the mandatory team attire includes an outdoor jacket with a fur hood, soft-shell jacket, thermal underlayer, pullover, and polo shirt or team shirt. The team’s shoes are also completely suitable for use in wintery conditions.
... the organisers of the Rally Sweden present the “Colin’s Crest Award” for the longest jump over a crest on the Vargåsen stage, in memory of Colin McRae? Previous winners since 2008: Khalid Al Qassimi (UAE), Marius Aasen (N), Ken Block (USA) and Ott Tänak (EST).
... Volkswagen is also the official car of the Rally Sweden?
... the Rally Sweden is the first event of the 2013 season to feature two spectator stages, known as Super Special Stages? The 1.9-kilometre “Färjestadstravet” stage in Karlstad will be held twice on a harness racing track.
The number for the Rally Sweden: 1,300
As at all the rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), the Volkswagen engineers can expect to be faced with a lot of analysis work at the Rally Sweden. Each car will record about 1,300 megabytes of sensor data at the “Sweden”. For comparison: that is the equivalent of about 230,000 A4 pages of pure text.
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Standings
Drivers’ Championship 1. Sébastien Loeb, 25 points; 2. Sébastien Ogier, 18; 3. Dani Sordo, 15; 4. Mikko Hirvonen, 12; 5. Bryan Bouffier, 10; 6. Mads Østberg, 8; 7. Martin Prokop, 6; 8. Sepp Wiegand, 4; 9. Olivier Burri, 2; 10. Michał Kosciuszko, 1.
Manufacturers’ Championship 1. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, 37; 2. Volkswagen Motorsport, 18; 3. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team, 15; 4. Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, 10; 5. Lotos WRC Team, 8.
Press: Volkswagen Motorsport