Rally Sweden’s qualifying stage kicked off round two of the 2013 World Championship this morning, before the drivers choose their starting positions for Friday’s leg this evening. Mikko Hirvonen was Citroën’s highest-placed driver, claiming third position in his DS3 WRC.
Although temperatures are below zero, arctic conditions have yet to hit Sweden. Temperatures are forecast to plummet to -20°C tomorrow night, but for now it remains sufficiently ‘mild’ for large snowflakes to fall, leaving the country roads in the county of Värmland covered by a thick layer of freshly-fallen snow.
It would therefore be surprising if the leading crews in today’s qualifying stage choose an early starting position. The drivers still have a few hours to think about their strategy, since they are not scheduled to reveal their decisions until 7pm, an hour before the first special stage is held at Karlstad racecourse.
Among the Citroën Racing crews, the best performance went to Mikko Hirvonen, who grabbed the morning’s third fastest time: “The main thing was to be among the leaders so you can choose a good starting position. I think it will be a very open rally, our rivals look sharp! I have the impression that there is a bit more ice than last year, but less snow. It will be complicated because the fresh snow can hide rocks and you need to avoid picking up punctures. Everything is looking good for us, I feel confident and ready for the fight.”
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were eighth fastest in the second DS3 WRC of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT. “It’s not a great result and it’ll undoubtedly leave us with very little choice when it comes to selecting our starting position,” admitted Seb. “But in any case, this rally is a challenge for me. I came here to compete precisely because it’s not easy! The conditions seem okay to me; it has snowed a lot since the start of recce. If it gets a lot colder, it should be perfect…”
Competing for the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, Khalid Al Qassimi and Scott Martin are taking part in their first event in the DS3 WRC. The Emirati driver has not set himself any specific targets as he gets used to his new team: “It’s difficult to improve when you only compete in one rally like this per year. This year, there aren’t really any snow banks to run onto and you never know quite what to expect around each corner. It’s going to be hard for everyone! For the time being, I’m just enjoying getting to know the team. Since we did some testing Sweden last week, I can see that every detail has been planned and well organised. The drivers are very well supported and that means I can concentrate fully on my race.”
Also competing at this rally, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio finished tenth in the qualifying stage.