WRC set for Rally Sweden's winter wonderland

WRC set for Rally Sweden's winter wonderland


A high-speed winter wonderland awaits the FIA World Rally Championship stars and their Rally1 hybrid cars next week (February 9-12), when the 70th Rally Sweden forms round two of the 2023 WRC season. 


Based in the university city of Umeå in the northeast of the country, Rally Sweden is the WRC’s only true winter event. It’s also one that never fails to deliver flat-out action, as drivers perfect the art of shigh speed action on ice-coated forest roads.


Recent heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures are set to combine to deliver a classic winter contest in Scandinavia, with the rally also marking the opening round of the 2023 FIA Junior WRC Championship for young drivers competing in identical Ford Fiesta Rally3s run by M-Sport Poland on Pirelli tyres.


Last year’s event earned Rally Sweden three-star environmental accreditation, the highest possible under the FIA’s framework, and sustainability remains a key focus of the event organising team, of whom the majority provide their time and expertise on a voluntary basis. The use of 100 per cent fossil-free fuel in Rally1 cars and a reduction in tyre quantity through new-for-2023 regulations are just two examples of how the FIA is working step-by-step to make rallying more sustainable.


What was an all-new route last season has been tweaked for the 2023 edition of Rally Sweden with three new stages added to the itinerary.

 

THE ROUTE IN SHORT

Eighteen stages over a competitive distance of 301.18 kilometres are in store on Rally Sweden with 62 per cent of the route different compared to 12 months ago. The 5.16-kilometre Umeå Sprint is up first on Thursday evening (February 9) with a spectator-friendly format helping to ensure large crowds follow the action.


Stages to the west and to the north of Umeå make up Friday’s itinerary and include the revised Brattby stage, plus Botsmark, an all-new test measuring 25.81 kilometres in length. The Brattby, Botsmark and Sarsjöliden stages are run either side of service in Umeå, while leg one concludes with a return to the Umeå Sprint for a total of 106.76 timed kilometres.


Crews journey north and east of Umeå for Saturday’s leg two – the longest of the rally at 126.22 kilometres – for three repeated stages. At 12.54 kilometres, Norrby is a Rally Sweden newcomer and is one of three stages to take place before and after the Umeå service halt. The 28.25-kilometre Floda stage is the event’s longest.


Sunday’s third and final leg is made up of two passes through the all-new 26.48-kilometre Västervik stage, plus the 10.08-kilometre Umeå Power Stage, a longer version of the Umeå Sprint, and used for the first time on Saturday evening.

 

RALLY SWEDEN DATA

Stage distance:    325.02 km
Total distance:     1534.79 km
Number of stages:    18
 

RALLY1 CONTENDERS

-Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team: Thierry Neuville is joined by new-for-2023 recruit Esapekka Lappi, plus Craig Breen, who returns to the squad to drive the third Hyundai i20 Rally1 Hybrid after a season at M-Sport in 2022. All three are Rally Sweden podium finishers.

-M-Sport Ford World Rally Team: Pierre-Louis Loubet and Ott Tänak fly the M-Sport flag in their Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrids. Like Toyota's Lappi and Takamoto who are entered in Ralli Kuopio in Finland this weekend, Estonian Tänak is contesting Otepää Winter Rally as a practice event in his homeland to prepare for the Swedish ice and snow.
 

-Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT: Having begun his WRC title defence with second place and the Power Stage victory on Rallye Monte-Carlo last month, 22-year-old Kalle Rovanperä returns to an event he won last season. Takamoto Katsuta has been promoted to Toyota’s full factory line-up and will be eligible to score Manufacturers’ championship points for the first time. Elfyn Evans completes Toyota’s official trio, while Lorenzo Bertelli becomes the first privateer to compete in a Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid.

 

SUPPORTING CATEGORIES

The 25-car FIA WRC2 Championship entry includes defending champion Emil Lindholm (Toksport WRT Škoda Fabia RS Rally2), leading Swedish driver Oliver Solberg (Škoda Fabia RS), Norway’s Ole Christian Veiby (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5), Finland’s Teemu Suninen (Hyundai Motorsport N i20 N Rally2) and Estonian Robert Vives, who takes up his first prize drive for winning the FIA Junior WRC title in 2022 and will be eligible for WRC2 Challenger points in his M-Sport Ford WRT-entered Fiesta Rally2.

Other FIA WRC2 Challenger contenders include Estonian youngster Georg Linnamäe (Hyundai i20 N), Toksport WRT2’s Nicolay Gryazin and Marco Bulacia (Škoda Fabia RS) or flying Finns Sami Pajari (Toksport WRT Škoda Fabia RS) and Lauri Joona (Škoda Fabia Evo). Italy’s Mauro Miele is a contender for WRC Masters Cup honours, having secured the title last season.

Drivers from Belgium, France, Ireland, Kenya, Luxembourg, Paraguay and Spain form the FIA Junior WRC entry, while 10 drivers will chase WRC3 points. One of the many notable Junior WRC drivers is Laurent Pellier, whose prize for winning the Junior ERC title is a season in Junior WRC. He will face strong competition from the likes of Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy William Creighton, returning Junior WRC driver from 2022, or Luxembourg's Grégoire Munster.


ip/FIA Junior WRC Championship

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy – William Creighton (IRL), Ford Fiesta Rally3 (JWRC / WRC3)

Laurent Pellier (FRA), Ford Fiesta Rally3 (JWRC / WRC3)

M-Sport Ford WRT - Robert Virves (EST), Ford Fiesta MkII (WRC2 / WRC2 Challenger)

 
RALLY SWEDEN MANUFACTURER ENTRIES

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT    
Kalle Rovanperä (FIN)/Jonne Halttunen (FIN) - #69
Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Scott Martin (GBR) - #33
Takamoto Katsuta (JPN)/Aaron Johnston (IRL) - #18
      
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT    
Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL) - #1
Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) - #4
Craig Breen (IRL)/James Fulton (IRL) - #42
      
M-Sport Ford WRT    
Ott Tänak (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST) - #8
Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) - #7


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