Elfyn and Dan head for snowy Sweden
Based in the rally-rich heart of Värmland, the region has benefited from significant snow-fall of late, which could well signal the return of some classic winter rallying.
Provided the snow cover remains good, Rally Sweden might surprise. Whereas other loose-surface events deliver unpredictable grip-levels, traction on snow is relatively high. With temperatures well below zero, Michelin’s X-ICE NORTH 2 tyres bite through the snow to capture grip on the hard ice below – affecting a smooth ride at breath-taking speeds.
But should the stages be covered with soft snow and little ice, the studs tear up the road surface leaving little room for error – exposed gravel threatening to damage the steel-tips and resulting in a considerable loss of traction.
Of course it’s not just tyres which are adapted to cope with the cold climate. The Ford Fiesta RS WRCs are fitted with extra protection to guard against the studded tyres and there are a few driver comforts to ensure the crews can perform to the best of their ability. The cars are fitted with heaters and the drivers and co-drivers benefit from such little luxuries as heated boots and thicker soled shoes.
Unlike his more experienced colleagues Mikko Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, the event will mark Elfyn’s first venture to Sweden’s snow-covered stages. The Welshman has never contested a snow rally with studded tyres, but with the knowledge and guidance of his experienced team mate, he will be well prepared for the challenges ahead.
Partnered as usual by Daniel Barritt, the pairing will be looking to gain as much knowledge and experience of the unfamiliar surface as possible. With the goal of making it through all 24 stages unscathed, next weekend provides another perfect opportunity for Elfyn to hone his skills and continue his development as one of the championship’s most promising up-and-coming young talents.
This will be my first time driving a proper snow rally with full studded tyres, but I’m feeling good about the challenges ahead. We’ve had a really good test which has helped a lot with the confidence, but obviously the rally itself will be a completely different experience. Even the recce will be new to us – discovering how to best prepare the notes for these kinds of conditions.
I think that the type of snow we encounter will be key. At the moment, it looks like it’s going to be fairly mild in Värmland so that could make it quite tricky and we will need to ensure that we take care to look after the studded tyres. We just need to take everything as it comes, one stage at a time, and gain as much experience as possible.
Of course Mikko and Jarmo are well versed when it comes to this event. They have a lot of experience on snow and have won the rally twice already so we’ll be looking to harness their experience as much as we can. They’ve already been really helpful. After Monte and during this week’s test we have exchanged a lot of questions. Their advice will be invaluable to us next week, and I’m sure they’ll continue to share their knowledge throughout the event.