So the ‘On-Off’ Rally Sweden 2016 was finally ‘On’ and the drivers and teams treated spectators to three days of spectacular rallying in around Karlstad. In some incredibly difficult conditions which eventually saw 9 stages being canceled as a result of warm weather, with SS20 succumbing during the event itself, teams had to anticipate the effects of dwindling snow and ice across the different stages, making car setups and driving strategies extremely tough to perfect.
A number of ŠKODA Fabia R5s made it to the start ramp, and a combination of skill, judgement, experience, and good fortune, saw all but one of them finish the event.
Works team driver Pontus Tidemand and co-driver Jonas Andersson, who lost 50 seconds following a first day incident, drove a focused and determined rally from then on to finish second in the WRC2 category, just 14.7 seconds behind the winner, in their home event. Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm recovered from a slide on Day 1, to drive a perfect final Power Stage and clinch third in category.
Elsewhere, Printsport Oy crew Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjærmoen, driving a Fabia R5 in WRC competition for the very first time, finished a hugely creditable sixth in WRC 2.
“We had initially thought to use Rally Finnskog as a preparation for Rally Sweden. But we had to retire at the first special stage because of puncture. Therefore we had to use Friday in Sweden to become better acquainted with the car. But we never found a setup that we were comfortable with. But Saturday went better and better,” said Ole Christian Veiby.
After the flawless drive in the final Power Stage on Sunday they beat Emil Bergkvist by 9.5 seconds and stole the sixth place in WRC 2 from the Swede. “The aim was to clear sixth place, and we succeeded with a margin of less than a second. A fantastic way to finish the rally,” added Veiby.
Veiby plans to run in two rounds of the Finnish Rally Championship this winter to get more time behind the wheel before beginning his campaign in the Junior WRC championship, which will start in Portugal in May.
Unfortunately, The Ptock team of Hubert Ptaszek and Maciej Szczepaniak, were not so fortunate, as the conditions proved their undoing with a large stone on the course damaging their suspension and forcing them to retire.
It was a better news for Team Oreca, with the Finnish duo of Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula (title photo above), boosting their rapidly burgeoning reputations by finishing tenth overall and second in RC2 class.
“The Rally Sweden is a special event within the WRC calendar and it was very important for me to gain much experience there. That’s exactly what we’ve done and we have also shown a good pace. The outcomes are very positive,” said Teemu Suninen. “Before it started we thought that a place within top 5 would have been a good result. In the end we came second in RC2, so we’re very pleased. We managed to come back to that place by clocking the fastest time in the final special stage and it’s obviously great to finish on that note. Generally speaking we posted some good times throughout the rally and had good feelings on board our Fabia R5. The car behaved very well and I think that we’ve done a great job with the team and our engineer. It’s almost a perfect rally for us.”
A brief mention too for the Kristoffersson Motorsport team of Johan Kristoffersson and co-driver Patrik Barth. The independent Swedish pair, driving the elder Fabia S2000, struggled with the conditions on Day 1, but improved rapidly to finish a hugely creditable 21st overall.
While all the ŠKODA customer teams dealt well with the challenges Sweden threw at them, most will be glad to leave the snow and ice behind, with the next round of the WRC taking the teams and drivers into a very different environment, across the Atlantic, at the Guanajuato Rally, Mexico, in early March.