Rally Sweden, the second round of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship, will start slightly over a day from now. Yours truly would have been just two hours away from Stockholm now, but due to a technical problem on our B777, I’m now in sunny Putrajaya (32C) instead of freezing Karlstad (-6C). Anyway, the long journey to winter wonderland starts tonight, God willing, and we’ll bring you some live reports from Sweden.
Those of you who follow world news would know that Europe is suffering from a cold snap now, with severe snow and record low temperatures. Many have died, and I’m hoping that my winter wear will hold up. This job can be hazardous you know :)
Thankfully, Proton Motorsports, which is competing in the S-WRC category (S for Super 2000) in WRC, had a better run up to the event than us. The men driving the yellow Satria Neo S2000s in Sweden are homeboy Per Gunnar Andersson and Alister McRae. PG drove superbly in the season opening Monte Carlo Rally, but an unfortunate technical problem meant that he had to retire from the S-WRC lead (9th overall) on the last day with just 20+ kilometres to go.
Putting the disappointment behind him, the Swede prepared for Sweden in style, with a Super 2000 victory in the KNA Rally Finnskog in Norway days ago. Of the 42 entries, he finished ahead of fellow S2000 Ford and Skoda teams and fourth overall in a warm up event that included the Citroen and Ford WRC teams. Let’s hope the good form continues.
“We’ve put the disappointment in Monte Carlo behind us. It’s quite obvious that the Satria Neo S2000 has the pace and performance, and we’re back in Sweden to prove this point. Rally Sweden is an incredibly exciting event which will see competitors battling it out on ice and snow for what is a proper winter rally. We have a competitive package, and alongside experience as well as local knowledge, we’re confident the Satria Neo S2000 will live up to challenge,” PG said.
After KNA Rally Finnskog, the team spent a trouble-free day testing the Neos. “The rally in Norway went very, very well for us. The odd very cold day in Britain aside, this was the first time the Satria Neo had ever run in anything like these conditions and it worked perfectly straight away. We fitted a stronger heater to make sure the screen was clear and put some warm jackets in the back for the guys, but apart from that, this was the same car which won in Malaysia at 40 degrees. On Saturday it was winning S2000 in temperatures 70 degrees colder!” team boss Chris Mellors exclaimed.
Some might be surprised with the inclusion of Proton’s APRC champ Alister McRae. The reason he was drafted in for Sweden is because PG’s regular teammate Italian Giandomenico Basso is more of a tarmac specialist. The Scotsman has competed in Rally Sweden seven times before, finishing as high as fifth overall. He last drove here in 2004. “It’s fantastic to be back. Rally Sweden will also give us a chance to test the 2012 Satria Neo S2000 ahead of the start of this year’s APRC,” said McRae.
Rally Sweden has attracted a total of 85 entries and will be contested over 24 special stages covering a competitive distance of 360km. The rally begins with a 1.9km super special stage in Karlstad tomorrow (looks like we’ll be missing that one) and continues on Friday with nine special stages which will see competitors driving through classic Norwegian stages in the town of Kongsvinger.
Heading to KLIA now, stay tuned for updates!