The second round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship gets underway this evening on the only full snow event of the year.
Beginning with a 1.9km blast around Karlstad town centre, the four-day event then heads into Norway on Friday, including on the two Röjden stages which start and end in Sweden but physically enter its neighbouring country midway through the 18.1km tests.
Rally Sweden in 2019 sees a similar itinerary to 12 months ago, with a total of 19 stages this weekend totalling over 315km of stage miles.
Last time out saw Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville continue where they left off at the end of the 2018 season and continue an intense dual – Ogier eventually coming out on top by just 2.2 seconds on his return to the Citroen Total World Rally Team.
Ogier has already admitted he’s more than likely at a disadvantage as the man at the front of the running order this weekend and could end up scraping lose gravel from the surface of the Swedish stages.
Behind the leading battle in Monte-Carlo, a fine comeback drive from Ott Tänak saw him recover to third after having a puncture midway through the first round of the season. The Estonian running third on the road could be the man to benefit running further down the road order.
A returning face enters for a one-off event this weekend as double WRC champion Marcus Gronholm enters in a fourth Toyota Yaris WRC under his GRX Team banner. The Finn has set himself a target of a top-10 finish this weekend.
Sebastien Loeb enters his second event for the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team this weekend and could be on for another solid result as he continues his transition into the i20 Coupe WRC while Esapkekka Lappi will be aiming to forget about his retirement last time out.
Andreas Mikkelsen, who destroyed the rear left of his Hyundai at the final corner of a stage in Monte-Carlo, will be wanting to prove that his pace can be turned into a result this weekend and repeat his third place finish here last year.
Jari-Matti Latvala took fifth in round one and will be looking to again score a good handful of points in Sweden while Kris Meeke, who won the first Power Stage of the year proved on several tests in Monte-Carlo that he already is up to speed in his new car for 2019.
M-Sport Ford will want to put a poor Monte-Carlo behind them where all three of their drivers suffered problems and Pontus Tidemand, who enters his second event for the team could be a man to watch on his home event. The Swede has often said this is the event where he wants to show what he can do in a current-spec WRC car.
Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen both want to kick start their seasons – particularly the Welshman after a big crash on the opening round of the season.
Two more current-generation WRC Fiesta’s are entered in Sweden for Italian Lorenzo Berteli and Finn Janne Tuohino.
WRC2: Greensmith Leads Going into Round Two
Gus Greensmith had a dream start to his 2019 WRC2 PRO championship in Monte-Carlo and finished a fine seventh overall in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 but will have more competition this weekend.
His rival from two weeks ago Kalle Rovanperä again competes in Sweden and he’s joined by Skoda teammate Eerik Pietarinen, with former Citroen WRC man Mads Østberg also joining the series for the first time this weekend in the Citroen C3 R5.
The fifth and final PRO entry is Polish driver Łukasz Pieniążek in a second M-Sport Fiesta.
WRC2 sees a total of 18 entries in Sweden, with 11 of them coming from Sweden or Norway.
With round one winner Yoann Bonato not taking part this weekend, standout names in the class include defending Junior WRC champion Emil Bergkvist, who makes his first appearance of the season in a Ford Fiesta R5 and frontrunner on the event in the last two years Ole Christian Veiby, who will hope his 2019 change to a Volkswagen Polo will enable him to finally take the class win.
Rhys Yates continues his graduation to the international stage after his British and European campaigns in recent seasons in the Skoda Fabia, while the experienced Henning Solberg also is on the entry list for this weekend.
Jari Huttunen makes his first appearance of the season, again in a similar Fabia, while another former ERC frontrunner in Nikolay Gryazin also makes his first appearance in WRC2 of the year.
2019 Rally Sweden begins later this evening.