Whilst the world skiing championship is currently taking place in the country, Sweden is also preparing for the thrill of a different set of acrobatic talents. Tightrope walkers like Sébastien Ogier – Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi – Janne Ferm, the crews competing in the Citroen Total World Rally Team’s two C3 WRCs, will brave the forests of Värmland at the second round – and the only one held exclusively on snow and ice – of the world rally championship.
Scandinavian drivers dominated Rally Sweden in its first twenty-eight years in the WRC. Non-Nordic crews have won the rally only three times since 1973.
Winners for the first time in 2013, Ogier and Ingrassia are the only ones to have achieved the feat three times
Their other victories coming in 2015 and 2016. That suggests that they know how to manage the subtleties of this high-speed balancing act. It is an exercise that differs each year due to the amount of snow and ice on the roads. That can vary enormously from one year to the next. Sébastien and Julien securing Citroen Racing’s historic hundredth win in the WRC at Monte-Carlo and the forty-fifth of their career. Now they will have the tough job of running first on the road in Sweden with C3 WRC. That means that Citroen’s crew will carve out the racing line for the rest of the field if there is fresh snow on the surface.
“It’s a rally that I have always really enjoyed. You get a really nice feeling driving the WRCs here. I hope that we have good conditions so we can enjoy ourselves, although I’m aware that running first is very often a significant disadvantage, due to the layer of snow covering the ice. We’ll have to see how the roads evolve for the second passes. But I fear that with the layer of ice currently on the roads, the gravel will start to appear quite quickly. In testing, the feeling gradually improved as we covered more kilometres. And as always, we are going to try and do our best“, Ogier said.
— Citroën Racing (@CitroenRacing) February 10, 2019
Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm have a genuine feel for driving in these unusual conditions
They have only two appearances in Sweden to date. But they know racing on frozen lakes from a very young age like most NMordic drivers. You only need look at their performance in 2018, where they finished with a flourish on Sunday’s leg. The pair claimed one second fastest time (just 1.3s off the pace) and two stage wins, including the Power Stage. Their strong finish meant they ended the rally fourth overall. That suggests that they will be serious contenders for a podium spot this year. Especially as they are due to start 10th in the running order.
“If the conditions stay the same as those we had in testing, then the layer of ice is so thin that it is likely to leave the gravel exposed pretty quickly, which means we’ll have to manage the studs on the second runs. Whatever happens, we have a good road position. The stages are fast, which I like and I feel that we worked well in testing. I just hope we’ll have a bit of luck on our side this time and our hard work will pay off“, Lappi explained.
Since finishing as runner-up last year after a hard-fought battle at the front, the Citroen C3 WRC has had improvements made to its dampers and suspension geometry
“After making a great start to the season in Monte-Carlo, we are obviously determined to maintain our good form and challenge for the podium at this rally, where we finished as runners-up last year. However, we are very well aware that it’ll be a huge challenge and that it will be a very closely contested race. It’s a surface where confidence behind the wheel is critical. That is why we tried to ensure Sébastien and Esapekka come into the event in the best possible shape over the four days of testing. In principle, given that he is first on the road, Sébastien will not have an easy task. But we know how talented and tenacious he is. Meanwhile, Esapekka should have a better position in the running order. And with the speed he showed last year, he’ll certainly have a great chance“, Pierre Budar, Citroen Racing Team Principal said.