The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team will see a slight change to its driver line-up for Sweden as lead driver Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul will be joined by Finnish ace, and Hyundai test driver, Juho Hänninen with Tomi Tuominen.
The team started to prepare for Rally Sweden in early December with a five-day test in Rovaniemi, Finland, close to the Arctic Polar Circle, where both Neuville and Hänninen had a first taste of driving the Hyundai i20 WRC on snow. Both drivers will have an additional day of testing ahead of next week’s rally.
After a very unlucky Rallye Monte-Carlo, Neuville has only one objective for Rally Sweden: to bring their Hyundai i20 WRC to the finish: “I don’t have much experience on Rally Sweden – having only competed there twice before - and snow is probably my least favourite surface but it’s a rally where I enjoy a lot driving and where we got a good result last year (fifth place). It’s a unique rally - very fast, with narrow roads and big snow banks alongside the roads. We tested for a couple of days for Sweden back in December where we got the first feeling of driving the Hyundai i20 WRC in full winter conditions. We also started to work on set-up solutions for this specific event. We also had another day of testing last weekend which allowed us to do some final adjustments and cover some more kilometres ahead of the rally.”
Hänninen, who clinched his best WRC result to date at Rally Sweden last year when he finished sixth (in a Fiesta) said: “I was already privileged to be the first behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 WRC back in May 2013 but being in Sweden with the team will feel even more special. It will be my first event within a WRC factory team and, for sure, it will be a special moment that I will remember for a long time. Rally Sweden is one of my favourite events. For a Finn, to drive on snow is almost a natural thing so of course we would like to get a good result but the main target for Tomi and I will be to finish the event and get as much experience as possible for the team.”
This year’s Rally Sweden will take the competitors to the forests of the Värmland region, crossing the border for two stages in Norway. Hyundai Shell WRT’s tyre partner Michelin will supply winter tyres fitted with over 380 tungsten-tipped studs.
The drivers will also have anti-glare glasses - and heated boots!
Note to self: Wonder if I can get a pair for the Arnold Clark Thistle Snowman in Inverness in 3 weeks time?