The last practice session before this evening’s official start, the Rally Sweden shakedown provided Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT with an opportunity to make a few final set-up adjustments. Back in the Citroën squad for this weekend, Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen confirmed that they had got to grips with the C3 WRC quickly as they set the second fastest time, whilst Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle and Craig Breen – Scott Martin also showed good pace, finishing fourth and eighth respectively.
This morning’s 6.86 kilometre-long shakedown stage was contested on perfect, snow-covered roads around Skalla. Lined with big snow banks, and despite being a little bit bumpier than the stages contested over the weekend, it proved to be fairly representative of what lies in store for the competitors.
The tyres used in the shakedown are not included in the allocation for the rally, so the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews took full advantage, completing five runs and therefore continuing to rack up the miles on a surface where confidence is absolutely critical. This final practice session also enabled the team to review various set-up options and build on the work done during the four days of pre-event testing last week.
On a stage where the grip improved throughout most of the morning as more cars completed, Mads Østberg set the second fastest time, just three tenths off the pace, whilst Kris Meeke set the fourth fastest time on his final attempt. Craig Breen, who began the session a little more tentatively than his team-mates, gradually grew in confidence and closed the gap to the frontrunners on his final pass.
The rally is due to start this evening on the Karlstad racecourse with a 1.90km-long super special stage. However, the real action gets under way tomorrow with the longest leg of the rally (140.1km of timed stages), split between Sweden and Norway.
WHAT THEY SAID
“At the start of the shakedown, I wasn’t feeling very confident. I felt more comfortable on the second pass and in the end, my time is fairly competitive. Since last year, obviously we have learned lessons and improved the C3 WRC. But we know that our competitors have improved too. So we’ll just have to wait for the first few stage times and see where we stand, especially as road position is going to have an impact. In any case, I’m pleased with my car. The target for me is to keep being consistent and try to come away from Sweden with some more points in the bag.”
“The start of the shakedown wasn’t easy for us. The conditions were fairly different to those we had in testing last week and I was a bit short of grip at the rear of my C3 WRC. But we managed to adapt the set-up as we completed more runs, and we finished on a positive note. Tomorrow, I hope to make the most of the starting order, which should work in our favour.”
“It was a good morning, I was a bit surprised to be quickest after the first run, to be honest, but it confirms that the day of testing was beneficial. I was able to improve the set-up so it suited me more, and I’m pleased to see that we are on the pace. We were able to try a few little things today and now we’ll opt for the best possible set-up. Let’s hope that the forecast for snow tomorrow proves to be right, because if it does snow, my position way down the starting order shouldn’t be too bad!”
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:17.3
Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:17.6
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:18.1
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:18.3
Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:18.7
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:18.8
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:19.0
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:19.1
Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:19.2
Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:19.3