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Ogier eager to tackle 'fun' Rally Sweden
3 February 2013
Sébastien Ogier might not have as much experience of Rally Sweden as his new Volkswagen team mate Jari-Matti Latvala - a two-time winner of the event - but that doesn't mean Ogier is any less excited about the chance to get to grips with the uniquely challenging and at times brutal conditions that the roads around Hagfors and Karlstad can throw at the WRC field.
"I really like the Rally Sweden," insisted the French driver. "If the snow conditions are good, it is really good fun driving there. The average speed is pretty high, and the grip on studded tyres is fantastic.
"I just love pulling off big drifts with a rally car on ice," he added.
Even so, Ogier is aware that this is an event that strongly favours Nordic competitors with 'home advantage' of familiarity of the freezing conditions and looming snow banks. Only one non-Nordic crew has ever won Rally Sweden , and that was Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena back in 2004.
Ogier has only competed in Sweden three times before now, finishing fifth in his event début in 2010 and improving to fourth pace in 2011 while competing with Citroën, but he slumped out of the top ten and could only manage 11th place in 2012 in his first season with current team Volkswagen.
Ogier is hoping that an extra 12 months of experience with the new team in the 315-horsepower Polo R WRC will make all the difference and put him into serious contention next weekend.
"Let's see what we are capable of on this surface," he cautioned. "It is hard to predict what awaits us there. We will have to wait until after the first few special stages."
Certainly the season has started well for Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia, after they clinched second place in an eventful WRC season opener in Monte Carlo last month. First place went to Ogier's compatriot Loeb, but the reigning world champion is running a curtailed programme of races in 2013 and that puts Ogier in pole position at this point in this year's title race.
"The season could hardly have started better for us," Ogier agreed. "Heading to Sweden with 18 points to our name is a very nice position to be in. This allows us to relax a little!"
“After a good start to the season, the entire team now heads to the next challenge, the Rally Sweden, fully motivated and full of confidence," agreed Ogier's boss, Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito.
"However, everyone in the team is well aware that the good result achieved in Monte Carlo is not yet a true indication of where we lie compared to the opposition,” he cautioned. “The Rally Sweden is totally unique. The speed on the ice and snow is very high. This is only possible with extreme studded tyres, which are only used once a year."
So the challenges in Sweden are unlike any other venue at which the WRC contenders race, and could reveal a lot about the relative strengths - and weaknesses - of both drivers and cars in 2013.
"Every rally is a test for the team," Capito agreed. "The processes in Monte Carlo recently were top-class. We want to follow on from this in Sweden and to continue developing from rally to rally."
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