Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja will be able to show what they can squeeze out of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car in Sweden. Source: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja will be able to show what they can squeeze out of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car in Sweden. Source: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Rally Sweden: What’s in the cards for Tänak depends on both – Rovanperä and the weather

Motorsports OlyBet 14.02.2024

This week in the World Rally Championship, the gas pedal will be pressed into the floor with such force that it will not be lifted until the special stage is over. That’s how fast the World Rally Championship event in Sweden, starting on Thursday might be.

“If most people think of snow and ice as something slippery, to us it means, on the contrary, ideal traction!” said Andreas Mikkelsen, who is participating again in the highest class this year after a break of a couple of years, before the only winter rally of the season.

The Norwegian himself will not be able to enjoy the winter charms there this time – Esapekka Lappi will be behind the wheel of the third Hyundai instead – but the Scandinavian’s words should not be doubted.

Behind the ideal grip cited by Mikkelsen are the studded tires given to the drivers, into which Pirelli has hammered 384 tungsten-tipped steel studs. These spikes, protruding seven millimeters from the tire, allow drivers to control the machine with millimeter accuracy.

And if sometimes it happens that they make a little mistake, the snowbanks bordering the stages allow the drivers to correct their mistake and race forward relatively carefree. No one can indeed afford too big of an off, because then the rally will turn into a shoveling challenge instead…

Tänak already proved his speed last year

However, the Swedish winter rally is above all suitable for the daredevils. For men who are not afraid to press the gas pedal to the floor and then just whiz. Who are those guys?

Of course, Ott Tänak! Historically, winter rallies have suited him very well, which is aptly illustrated by last year’s Swedish rally, where he even managed to beat others with a faulty Ford Puma. This gives hope that Tänak will be able to show good speed this year as well, in a situation where he has not got the hang of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car just yet.

Let’s not forget that at the opening stage of the season in Monte Carlo, Tänak had quite a lot to discover. “Before coming here, we had only driven on a four-kilometer road, but when we came to the real rally, everything was very different. There were a lot of things I wasn’t aware of before coming here,” he said after finishing fourth in Monte Carlo.

The fourth place in question was indeed more due to the spin on the ice on the opening day and a faltering engine, but these variables should also be eliminated for Sweden. The first was then taken care of by Pirelli, the second by Hyundai.

“In Monte, it was a combination of Ott’s driving style and our anti-lag system strategy. We just need a calibration specially adapted for him, but we are convinced that we have something better to offer Ott for the Swedish rally,” Hyundai team chief Cyril Abiteboul confirmed that Tänak will no longer suffer from this problem in Sweden.

Rovanperä continues to be on top of his game

Another man who is very, very well suited to fast and wintry conditions is Kalle Rovanperä. Indeed, this season, the reigning world champion, who will participate in the World Championship part-time, will make his debut this year in Sweden.

Anyone who at this point hoped that the Finn might be a little rusty after a break of a couple of months, Rovanperä proved that he had not lost his speed at the Arctic Rally on the first weekend of February.

Although Elfyn Evans was the one who won in Lapland, the Welshman only got to splash the champagne because Rovanperä’s Toyota gave up on the last stage. Or to be precise, it was a conscious pulling over.

“Kalle had to stop to avoid breaking the engine. It was a test car, on which slightly worn parts that have gone through a lot of kilometers are put on,” explained team leader Jari-Matti Latvala and confirmed that of course, no one in Sweden has to deal with such a problem. “For the World Rally Championship, everyone gets a car with brand new parts.”

The reigning world champion didn’t make too much of an interruption himself either. “It’s a shame we couldn’t make it to the finish line, but we still gained valuable kilometers for Rally Sweden. That was the main thing,” he said.

Evans pulled the rug from his own feet

Who else could shuffle the cards in Sweden? Elfyn Evans was looked upon with hope before the season, but with the Monte Carlo rally, his stock plummeted.

Why so? Let’s recall that Evans held the lead after the first full day at Monte, but eventually dropped to third. When the man first tried to blame the failing hybrid, it turned out afterwards that it was his own head that was the culprit.

“On Thursday-Friday, Elfyn had a clear road. Then, however, the road conditions got worse, and the racing became more risky, so Evans decided to give up the fight for first place and keep the points he had,” explained Latvala.

This is also the reason why, at the Swedish rally, it is not worth betting too much on the Welshman daring to keep the speedometer reading always at 200 km/h on fast roads.

Neuville is more daring than before

However, Tänak and Rovanperä will be offered competition by Thierry Neuville, whose shares, on the contrary, skyrocketed at the opening stage of the season. The Belgian showed a phenomenal drive in Monte Carlo, and on the mountainous Alpine roads, he also beat the king there, Sebastien Ogier.

The previous years have also shown that snowbanks and the Belgian are as thick as thieves: in total, Neville has reached the podium in Sweden six times, including once (2018) on its highest step.

On top of that, the Belgian also has the best starting position to use this year. Although…

At this point, the weather plays a big role, because although it is good to start first in clean conditions, in snowy conditions you must be more of a sled driver than a rally one. Here, let’s recall the year 2018, when Tänak’s chances failed because of this.

Source: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Even in the middle of last week, the weather from the 15th to the 18th of February threatened to be one with heavy snowfall – the forecast stated as much as 80 (!) centimeters in four days – but by now it seems to be not as dramatic anymore.

As of Tuesday morning, only five centimeters of snow should come down on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which would still be a positive prospect for Neuville. But what happens in Sweden will become clear by Sunday lunchtime.

WRC series points table 1/13

1. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) 30

2. Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) 24

3. Elfyn Evans (Toyota) 21

4. Ott Tänak (Hyundai) 15

5. Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport) 11

6. Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota) 9

7. Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai) 6

8. Nikolai Grjazin (Citroën, Rally2) 3

9. Pepe Lopez (Škoda, Rally2) 2

10. – 11. Yohan Rossel (Citroën, Rally2) 1

10. – 11. Grégoire Munster (M-Sport) 1


This piece of content has been lovingly crafted by the hard-working sports people of OlyBet. Hope you like it!


Related posts

Related articles