Sweden is the only winter round of this year’s World Rally Championship and its extreme mix of snow, high-speed and spiked tyres make it one the toughest to master. Beating the world’s best here really is something special, and this year we think Citroen new boy Mads Ostberg is well placed to do it. Here’s why:
1. Local knowledge
Sweden is a unique WRC challenge, and drivers who are familiar with the icy road conditions tend to have an advantage. Okay, Mads is a Norwegian not a Swede, but this year’s itinerary includes two stages - Kirkenaer and Finnskogen - that are located in Norway, where he is a multiple national champion. Ostberg also has access to more local knowledge than most thanks to his Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson. No other crew this year has a Norwegian / Swedish mix. If nothing else, the ability to call to spectators in both languages might help if they get stuck in a snow bank...
2. His snow track record
Ostberg denies that Sweden is his favourite WRC rally, but it’s certainly one of his favourites and his finishing record here is better than any other round. Sweden was where it all started for Ostberg. Aged just 19 he made his WRC debut here in 2006, driving a Subaru Impreza WRC. He bagged his first WRC fastest stage at the 2007 Rally Sweden and has finished inside the top ten on his last six starts. He came closest to winning Sweden in 2011 – his first year in a Ford after a long stint with Subaru. Having taken a surprise lead on the opening day, he lost out to Mikko Hirvonen by just 6.5sec. He finished third in 2012 and 2013, again with Fiesta power.
3. Things have started well at Citroen
Ostberg’s 2014 switch from Ford to Citroen has got off a great start. Fourth on Rallye Monte-Carlo has given him a huge confidence boost heading to Sweden, and he’s taken more positives since then – this time on snow – with a warm-up at the Mountain Rally Norway. There, Ostberg finished second to Pontus Tidemand, but that’s no surprise considering he was the only competitor running WRC-spec snow tyres, rather than the Norwegian championship specials that offer more grip. Two more test days in the car today (Thursday) and Friday should mean he’s feeling right at home in the DS3 by the time he gets to Karlstad.
4. He’s going for it…
Having come so close to a Sweden win before, Mads is more motivated than ever to get the job done this time. And he’s refreshingly honest about his ambition. “For sure I’m hoping for a win in Sweden,” he told wrc.com. “We will start the rally and try to do that. I know that with a good rally we will be able to finish on the podium, but I want to win. It’s a dream I have and I want it to happen as quickly as possible…”