Thomas Radstrom, 1997 Swedish Rally Champion, will drive for Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart in the International Swedish Rally (9-11 February), the second round of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship.

To strengthen its bid for success in both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships, Mitsubishi has signed the 34-year-old Swede to compete alongside regular team drivers Tommi Makinen and Freddy Loix in a third Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution/Carisma GT.

In one of the fastest and most specialised events in the series, the team hopes that Radstrom's expertise over roads on which he grew up will prove invaluable to the their assault on both the 2001 titles.

Both he and four-times World Champion Tommi Makinen will be nominated for points in the Manufacturers' Championship in this event, allowing Loix to fight for Drivers' points while fulfilling a tactical supporting role for the team.

"I am very excited about partnering Tommi and Freddy on my home rally," said Thomas. "It feels very good to be competing in a works car this year. Tommi has won Sweden before and was second last year in the Mitsubishi, and it will be my job to support the team in the Manufacturers' Championship. I am really looking forward to it."

Radstrom, who will be partnered by lady co-driver Tina Thorner, has a wealth of experience competing in the snowy forests of his homeland.

He was second in the Swedish Junior Championship in 1989 and took victory in the series the following year. Stepping up the ladder into a Group A car in 1992, he went on to finish third overall in the Swedish Championship in 1993 and took the series title in 1994 and 1997.

In his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship last year, Thomas set four fastest stage times to finish fourth overall, driving a Toyota, against a host of regular World Championship contenders.

"The whole team is delighted to welcome Thomas and Tina on board," said Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager George Donaldson. "After the lottery which is Monte Carlo we want to maintain the strongest possible position in both Championships in Sweden. Thomas' experience will be invaluable to the team on such a fast and specialised event."

The International Swedish Rally is the only round of the FIA World Rally Championship to encounter true winter conditions. Ice and snow pose a considerable challenge as the contender's power state-of-the-art machinery through the spectacular snow-covered forests.

Tommi Makinen, four-times FIA World Rally Champion, has won the event three times (1996, 1998 and 1999) and finished second overall last year in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.