Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Round 2 – Rally Sweden
Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Round 2 – Rally Sweden
Alzenau, Germany February 9, 2024
Hyundai Motorsport is aiming to continue its strong start to the season on the wintery roads of Rally Sweden (15-18 February), the second round of the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
Set in and around the city of Umeå, Rally Sweden is the only snow event on the calendar, boasting a number of specific challenges for the crews to tackle.
The most prominent are the snowbanks that line the stages.
They can both help and hinder drivers – use them correctly and it can assist turning, but hit them too hard and they will engulf the car and halt a crew’s progress.
The balance of speed and precision is therefore key when navigating the stages.
To add further difficulty, the roads of Rally Sweden are some of the fastest on the WRC schedule, with the studded tyres used at the event providing high levels of grip on the icy surface.
Pair this with long days and night-time stages and it creates a gruelling and unpredictable test.
Three experienced crews will be representing Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid.
Two-time event winners Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja travel to Sweden following a consistent performance at Rallye Monte-Carlo to compete alongside Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe, who are looking to add to their win tally following victory at the season-opener.
Esapekka Lappi will be back behind the wheel of the car for the first time since Rally Japan, as he kicks off his part-time campaign with co-driver Janne Ferm.
All three crews have taken part in a pre-event test in Finland to acclimatise to the conditions they will be facing in Sweden.
The 300.1km-long itinerary of the event commences on Thursday with a 5.16km night stage, before heading into Friday’s seven stages.
Saturday presents the longest total stage distance of the weekend, as 125.96km will be covered across the day’s seven stages.
Three stages on Sunday close the weekend, with Umeå (10.08km) acting as the Power Stage.
Across the event, there are four new stages and an altered running order in comparison to 2023.
In honour of the late Craig Breen’s dominance across SS2/5 Brattby at last year’s event, the 10.76km stage has been renamed as #42 Brattby.
Breen took the victory on both runs of the stages by 3.8 and 7.8 seconds respectively.
Hyundai Motorsport President and Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “Rally Sweden is the only snow event on the calendar, and after the mild conditions at Rallye Monte-Carlo it is the first time we will experience this type of surface since last year. We want to continue the momentum from our victory at the first round, and we know we have the potential with Thierry and Ott based on their wins here previously. It will be Esapekka’s first event since Rally Japan last year and we are excited to see a new lease of life in him as he embarks on his part-time campaign. Sweden is special for us because of Craig’s podium here last year, so it’s really nice to see his memory honoured in the renaming of Brattby. We want the best finish possible, so to end the weekend on the top step is our ultimate aim.”
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
Belgian crew go to Sweden with a win at Monte-Carlo under their belt
Neuville previously finished on the top step in 2018
Neuville said: “We are expecting a lot of snow and very cold temperatures in Sweden. This was something that was manageable last year but has been a bit more difficult previously. Because of this, we will need a lot of precision and reactivity from the car to be able to throw it from one corner to the other and maximise effectiveness. Snowbanks are obviously a huge risk, especially when temperatures are higher than usual. When it’s freezing, they are a feature you can rely on to help you get a better position to go faster. Clean driving, tyre management and road positions are all factors that can make it very challenging, but from our experience last year, the first day was very equal. I have always enjoyed Rally Sweden, so we will target a strong result.”
Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (#8 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
Solid start for the Estonians saw them finish fourth at Rallye Monte-Carlo
Tänak hoping to capitalise on performance and claim podium spot
Tänak said: “Sweden is a really nice rally that’s mostly about pure performance. The roads are easy and flat, so it’s no real stress to the cars and this makes it easier to maximise the pace. Previously it’s been great in Umeå, and I would like to see big snowbanks and icy roads once again. Snowbanks are more of a support than a risk in Sweden. Most of the time you can use them to your advantage to push the limit, so if the snowbank takes you, you are probably too far over the limit. The stages in complete darkness are always a bit of a challenge. You don’t see very much, sometimes just where the lights show. That, paired with driving on snow, means you can go sideways unexpectedly. On the other side, snow is quite a good reflector, so I would say it’s easier than driving in places like muddy Wales. The target is to do well. We won it last year and will try our best to be battling at the front again.”
Crew Notes: Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (#4 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
Finns to make first start of the year at Rally Sweden
Crew showed strong pace at the event in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid last year
Lappi said: “Rally Sweden is an event I definitely enjoy and a great place for me to start my season. I think if the conditions are as expected, then starting towards the back is a big advantage, as the fresh snow will be ploughed away by the first cars and the grip will be higher. However, if it’s really cold, more around minus 20, then you might have a lot of snow powder flying in the air, which makes visibility worse for those later in the running order. Another key feature of Rally Sweden is the difference between the first and second passes of the stages. On the first, the road is usually smooth and you can approach it normally, but on the second there can be big ruts that demand you to adapt your driving style quite a lot. Our goal might change during the weekend, it depends where we are, but hopefully we are fighting for the podium.”
Weekend at a Glance
Rally Sweden begins on Thursday afternoon with Shakedown, followed by SS1 Umeå Sprint (5.16km) in the evening.
Friday features two loops of #42 Brattby (10.76km), Norrby (12.36km), Floda (28.25km) and a second loop of Umeå Sprint (5.16km), covering a distance of 107.9km.
With the longest competitive distance of the weekend, Saturday’s seven stages cover a total distance of 125.96km.
Sunday closes the weekend with three stages, including two loops of Västervik (25.50km).