Volkswagen finished first, fifth and sixth in the shakedown for the latest World Rally Championship round, the Rally of Sweden, ahead of this evening’s first stage.
Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia were the fastest duo on the 4.30-kilometre “Råda” stage, which was used for the WRC’s free practice.
They were followed by Robert Kubica in his M-Sport-Ford, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke of Citroën, as well as Volkswagen team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila.
Without the need to look after the ‘Sweden spikes,’ the field were able to take anywhere between four and seven runs as the teams warmed up for the second round of the season.
The more runs completed the more the stage cleared up from the throes of snow and ice, the two conditions that Ogier loves.
“Ice and snow are some of my very favourite conditions, so I am glad to be back in Sweden again,” he said. “The roads were in perfect condition when we did the ‘Recce’. Unfortunately it has warmed up a little, and you could really notice this on the Shakedown. When it starts to thaw, the conditions become very slippery and far from easy. For this reason, I hope it freezes over again during the night. If so, the fans can look forward to a spectacular rally.”
Latvala however is rather more optimistic, believing everything has gone to plan so far for his Polo R WRC.
“The Shakedown went perfectly,” he said. “Our Polo feels good and the conditions are top-class, despite the rise in temperature. The competition will be fierce. Not just from our own team. You cannot afford to underestimate anyone, particularly Mats Østberg and Ott Tänak. And it goes without saying that you have to take the starting order into account. Winning here for the fourth time would certainly be very special for me. However, we have a long way to go before then.”
The man of experience had a different shakedown feeling to Mikkelsen, who was learning the effects of all out speed in the shakedown for the first time.
“That was the first time that I have completed the Shakedown stage here at full speed,” he reflected. “In previous years we have always had to look after the tyres, but this time we had access to a set of spikes specifically for the Shakedown. The walls of snow along at the sides of the road are particularly high this time, so the route was very narrow. It was anything but easy out there, but this made it a good warm-up for the coming days. Unfortunately you could also see how the conditions were improving with every car.”
The second round of the World Rally Championship begins tonight at 19:00 CET, with the round taking place over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.