Winter Sports for the Citroën C3 WRCs
For the second round of the season, the FIA World Rally Championship competitors will be tackling the only full winter event on the calendar. On the frozen, snow-covered roads of Rally Sweden, Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Craig Breen/Scott Martin will be hoping to slide the Citroën C3 WRC to success.
RALLY SWEDEN: SLIDING ALL THE WAY
It has been part of the World Rally Championship calendar since it began in 1973, Rally Sweden is one of the season's unmissable rounds. Even when temperatures drop close to -30°C – which is unlikely to be the case this year – large numbers of fans still flock to the stages to see the drivers deploy their talents to keep their cars on the road. The WRC cars flirt with the snow banks as they drift around corners at full speed, on studded tyres, providing an unforgettable show for the spectators.
The 2017 running of the event includes a number of new features, with the service park now moved to Torsby Airport. More than half of the itinerary has been revamped and the competitors will tackle several brand new stages. Following this Thursday evening's traditional super special stage at the Karlstad racecourse, the crews will head across the border into Norway for Friday's leg. Röjden will be the only stage this season to be contested in two different countries. On Saturday, the highlight will be Vargåsen and the infamous long jump contest held at Colin’s Crest. The rally concludes around lunchtime on Sunday, after the Torsby Power Stage.
THE CHALLENGES: KEEP MOVING FORWARD
Packed with incidents and drama, Rallye Monte-Carlo certainly confirmed how evenly-matched the field is in 2017 and the highly spectacular nature of the new generation of World Rally Cars. For Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, the opening round of the season did not however meet the team's high expectations. Two short weeks have provided time to analyse the reasons for the disappointing results in the south of France and to fine tune preparations for Sweden.
Having conducted an initial test session in early January, the team continued – as planned – development of the Citroën C3 WRC last weekend, on road surfaces that resembled as closely as possible those used during the rally.
Once again, two cars have been nominated to score points in the Manufacturers' World Championship at this next round. Alongside Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, Craig Breen and Scott Martin will be making their competitive debut in the C3. Meanwhile, Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau will be competing in a previous generation car.
After having matched the pace of the top drivers last year, Kris Meeke lines up in Sweden aiming for victory. Eighth in 2016, on his first rally in a WRC car with Citroën Racing, Craig Breen will also be looking for a very good result at one of his favourite events.
Yves Matton, Citroën Team Principal: "As soon as we returned from Monaco, the team got to work in a calm and determined fashion. Analysis of the Rallye Monte-Carlo showed that our poor performance stemmed from a series of isolated incidents, more often than not unpredictable, rather than a major underlying problem. We take some comfort from that point of view and we remain confident about our potential. In Sweden, we are obviously hoping for a better result. Once again, Kris Meeke will be aiming to win, whilst Craig Breen will need to learn and improve on his first rally with the C3 WRC. We'll still only have two cars nominated to score points in the Manufacturers' World Championship, but we hope we can make up some ground in the standings."
Laurent Fregosi, Technical Director: "Over the years, we have learned to cope with the specific challenges posed by this rally. The settings are different to those used on gravel and we have noted in testing that the C3 WRC responds well with our usual solutions. If the conditions deteriorate, with less snow and ice, we will need to be able to adjust the set-up, adapting the suspension to the ruts that form on the racing line. In those sorts of conditions, the tyre's studs tend to break, so we would need to limit this phenomenon by making changes to certain settings. As the cars cover more ground, snow tends to build up on the car and the increased weight can reduce performance. We took this into account when we designed the bodywork, but this phenomenon remains inevitable."
Kris Meeke: "After a disappointing Monte-Carlo, both for me and the team as a whole, it's difficult to feel fully confident coming into Rally Sweden. We have learned the lessons from the opening round and we'll come back stronger at the upcoming events. It's a long season. I’m happy to be back at one of my favourite rallies. In theory, I come here aiming to win, but we know that everyone's performance level will depend largely on the weather conditions. If it snows before the rally, my starting position for the first leg will be ideal. On the other hand, if we have a mild spell that melts the ice, then my chances would be reduced. We'll do our very best."
Number of appearances at the event: 3
Best result: 7th (2015)
Craig Breen: "I'm very excited about making my competitive debut with the Citroën C3 WRC. I can't wait to get started. This is something that I've been waiting for all my life. I have good memories from this rally, not least the 2016 event, which was my first WRC outing with Citroën. I'd also say that this surface is a little bit more forgiving of minor mistakes, or at least that is the case when there are really compact snow banks! I feel confident in these surroundings, in the car and with the team. And although we don't really know what to expect, I'm ready to rise to the challenge."
Number of appearances at the event: 4
Best result: 8th (2016)
Stéphane Lefebvre: "Rally Sweden is certainly the one where I have the most to learn, since I have only competed here once before, two years ago in the DS 3 R5. So from that point of view, I won't be frustrated to be driving a previous generation car. With the pressure off, I'll be able to progress at my own pace. My aim will be to bounce back after a difficult Monte-Carlo. It's difficult to make predictions or to set myself a specific target, but we'll be looking to seize the slightest opportunity to score points."
Number of appearances at the event: 1