Z First of all the good news: During the Olympic venue Vancouver suffers from a lack of snow, the Swedish rally center in Karlstad can currently not complain about the white splendor. With double-digit minus values, there is currently no sign of global warming in the Värmland region. But from Friday it will get really hot on the icy slopes.
Marcus Grönholm back in Sweden
For the first appearance of the year some have come together prominent names announced. Especially the return of Marcus Grönholm is eagerly awaited. The two-time world champion has already made it clear that he's not just taking part for fun. 'My realistic goal is a podium, but it would be fantastic if I could fight for victory. However, it will be difficult after such a long break from the WRC.'
Grönholm is looking forward to the demanding tests in central Sweden. A total of 345 kilometers are on the schedule. 'All stages will be extremely difficult. I've heard that there is a lot of snow and that the snow walls on the roadside will be large. So the conditions are very good.' On his return, Grönholm will compete for the private Stobart team and sit in a Ford Focus WRC.
Grip thanks to spikes like on asphalt
Mikko Hirvonen also competes in the same car. This year he finally wants to remove Sebastien Loeb from the throne. In order to create a buffer for the many asphalt rallies in the second half of the season, a win in Sweden is actually a must. 'Sweden is a great opening rally for me. As a driver, you have more freedom on snow. You don't have to drive so precisely. You can enter corners at higher speed and the snow walls will then lead the car around.'
A special stage in Sweden has little to do with sliding around on snowy roads as you know it from road traffic. 'The grip is incredible,' explains Hirvonen. 'When the ice is a little softer, the spikes dig in really well. It's a crazy feeling to drive so fast on such slippery conditions when you know you have as much grip as on asphalt.'
Loeb fast even on snow and ice
Of course Loeb wants to nip the hopes of his greatest rival for the title in the bud. The asphalt specialist hashas already proven more than once that it is also good on snow and ice. In 2004 he won the event in Sweden. In the preseason Loeb won the only snow rally in Norway. To get a feel for the snow, Loeb tested for two days in Sweden. 'Now I can hardly wait to be at the start of the first Super Special.' However, he does not see himself as a favorite. 'The Finns feel much more at home here than I do,' explained the Citroen C4 driver.
One of these Finns drives in the Citroen Junior Team. Kimi Raikkonen will take part in a WRC rally for the first time in Sweden. The 2007 Formula 1 world champion prepared for the Arctic Rally in Lapland. However, a tree stood in the way of the rally newcomer on stage two. 'I know I still have a lot to learn,' said the Iceman. 'I will probably still make a few mistakes, especially at the beginning. But I feel ready for the challenge.'
Solberg and his own team are optimistic
Perhaps, in the end, someone else will win the race. Petter Solberg is at the start in 2010 with his own private team and a Citroen C4 WRC. In Sweden and Norway, 'Hollywood' has prepared extensively for the season opener. 'We did a lot of testing before this rally and I am sure that with this car we can fight at the front.' The factory teams from Citroen and Ford should therefore watch out for the Viking.