Sébastien Ogier acknowledges his chances at this week’s Rally Sweden (14 - 17 February) depend heavily on the weather gods.
Victory at last month’s season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo means the Frenchman has the dubious honour of being first onto the forest roads of Sweden and Norway in Friday’s opening leg.
Thick snow would be a disaster for the Frenchman, leaving him to plough a cleaner and faster line in his Citroën C3 for those following. It was exactly these conditions that ruined his hopes 12 months ago when he finished a lowly 10th.
“I hope that we have good conditions so we can enjoy ourselves, although I’m aware that running first is very often a significant disadvantage, due to the layer of snow covering the ice,” said Ogier, a three-time Sweden winner.
Extremely cold weather since Christmas has left plenty of dry snow and reports suggest the roads lack the thick ice that allows the studded tyres to bite into the surface and provide remarkable grip.
Forecasts of daytime temperatures rising to 4°C during the rally could raise more weather-related concerns for the six-time world champion when special stages are driven for a second time.
“We’ll have to see how the roads evolve for the second passes, but I fear that with the layer of ice currently on the roads, the gravel will start to appear quite quickly,” added Ogier.
Gravel breaking through the snow and ice initially enhances grip, but it also quickly rips studs from the tyres. That severely reduces traction, especially in braking zones where the semi-soft surface develops water-filled ruts.