Ford Fiesta driver Breen, the inaugural WRC Academy Cup champion, won his class on the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo in January and will begin the Karlstad-based event on the back of a test rally in Norway last Saturday. Although damaged suspension following a brush with a snow bank caused his retirement, the Irishman was nevertheless satisfied following his first rally on snow in a year.
“I was still very happy with our speed on snow and the confidence is high as we head to Sweden,” said Breen. “It was my first snow event in 12 months and it takes time to bed in to the conditions.”
Breen’s early SWRC title rival PG Andersson also took part on Rally Finnskog at the weekend and impressed by finishing as the leading S2000 runner in fourth overall. The Swede’s intimate knowledge of the ice- and snow-coated stages will make him a favourite for class glory as he aims to gain revenge following his retirement on Rallye Monte-Carlo while he was leading comfortably with a handful of stages remaining.
“We are aiming for the SWRC win,” said the factory PROTON driver. “I hear there might be some snow coming on the weekend; I would like that, I prefer it when the conditions get a bit more tricky. But, for sure, fourth in Finnskog was the perfect start for the Satria Neo on snow.”
Hayden Paddon will also be expected to challenge for SWRC honours on his championship debut. The New Zealander is the reigning Production Car world champion and will pilot an ASM Motorsport Skoda Fabia, which he drove on snow for the first time during a test in Norway recently.
“We were able to try several things and have found a good start set-up for this week’s rally,” said Paddon. “With every kilometre spent in the car I am getting more confident, although there’s still plenty to learn and develop.”
Alister McRae will partner Andersson in the PROTON team. Unlike Paddon, Colin McRae’s younger brother has ample knowledge of the Swedish stages, albeit not since 2004, and will be capable of fighting for a podium finish.
Pole Maciej Oleksowicz and Saudi Yazeed Al Rajhi will make their SWRC debuts in a brace of Fiestas. Norwegian wildcard Marius Aasen will also drive one of the M-Sport creations in Sweden, while the second wildcard, Pontus Tidemand, will pilot an ex-Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda.