This season is a year of new challenges for many and Rally Sweden will bring one of the biggest tests for Kris Meeke, fellow Briton Elfyn Evans and ex-F1 ace Robert Kubica.
None have ever tackled a full snow event with studded tyres, and all three are happy to admit the experience gained by three days behind the wheel in the forests of Sweden and Norway will be more important than the result at the end.
All three sampled the white stuff during last month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo. But there are few similarities between an asphalt event with snow patches and a loose surface full snow rally and skinny studded tyres bolted to the car.
“At least the team knows what kind of difficulties I will be up against. I am going to concentrate on learning and forget about the actual result,” admitted Citroen DS3 driver Meeke.
“I know I’m quick on asphalt and gravel, but I have no real idea about how I’ll manage on snow. It’ll be down to me to learn about everything: the car, the tyres, and so on.
“Our rivals have a lot more experience than we do. They will undoubtedly go very fast. I’ll just have to put that out of my mind so I can learn and progress at my own pace. And above all, avoid making any mistakes,” added Meeke, who finished third in Monte-Carlo.
Evans was an impressive sixth in the season-opener and the Welshman hopes to tap into the experience of M-Sport team-mates and twice Rally Sweden winners Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen.
“We’ll be looking to harness their experience as much as we can,” admitted Evans. “They’ve already been really helpful. After Monte and during the test we have exchanged a lot of questions. Their advice will be invaluable to us and I’m sure they’ll continue to share their knowledge throughout the event.
“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,” said the Fiesta RS pilot.
Tackling the frozen wastes of Sweden is about as far removed from a Grand Prix track as you can get, but Kubica’s rally career so far has been one built on vertical learning curves.
“I don't know what to expect, but the snow-covered stages will certainly provide a new and exciting challenge. Given my unfamiliarity of the surface, we know that this will be a difficult event,” he said.
“Our priority is to concentrate on learning the new stages and conditions, but I am really looking forward to the rally and the new challenges that lay in wait,” added the Polish Fiesta RS pilot.