Tue 07 Feb 2023

Champion Lindholm revs up for WRC2 title defence

Reigning WRC2 champion Emil Lindholm begins the quest to defend his crown - kicking off his season with Rally Sweden this week (9 - 12 February).

Lindholm, 26, sealed last year’s title at the season-ending FORUM8 Rally Japan after a year-long battle which went right down to the wire. The Finn remains with the Toksport team and will steer a new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 in 2023 - a car he was heavily involved with developing before its launch. 

Rally Sweden, famed for its snowy and icy roads, will provide a challenging start to Lindholm's title defence, and he acknowledges there is an extra weight on his shoulders after last year’s success.

“Last year nobody really counted us as title contenders, but this season the expectations will naturally be higher,” said Lindholm, who is co-driven by Reeta Hämäläinen. “I would like to keep improving, which means at least confirming the title.

“It's just not easy to enter a season with a title in your pocket, but last year we showed speed and resilience. Plus, we have definitely become a better crew after this experience, so it can only go better.”

Joining Lindholm in the Toksport camp are Nikolay Gryazin, who was denied victory by a late time penalty in Monte-Carlo, plus youngsters Sami Pajari and Marco Bulacia.

Oliver Solberg, also driving a Škoda, did not register to score points in Monte-Carlo, instead opting to open his campaign here in Sweden. The former top-tier pilot will be one to watch, as will championship returnee Ole Christian Veiby, who wheels out a Volkswagen Polo for his first WRC start in 12 months.

Hyundai Motorsport fields a two-strong i20 N Rally2 line-up headed by the ultra-experienced Teemu Suninen. Fabrizio Zaldivar drives the team’s second car and will be looking to build on the encouraging pace he showed during 2022.

Reigning FIA Junior WRC champion Robert Virves flies the flag for M-Sport Ford, utilising one of his Ford Fiesta Rally2 prize drives to make his debut in the leading support category. Lauri Joona - one of Virves’ rivals last season - also steps up in a Fabia.

Other crews to keep an eye on include Estonia’s Georg Linnamäe, who has swapped his Polo for a RedGrey-prepared Hyundai, plus Jari Huttunen and Egon Kaur - both of whom drive Škodas.

  • Full coverage from Rally Sweden will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.
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