GROUP RALLYING EDITOR “Meeke would have drop-kicked me into the harbour”
A new three-year agreement with WRC Promoter delivered a complete turn around for Rally Sweden – which was on the edge of dropping off the WRC billing just seven days ago.
Warm weather looked like it would force the organisers to cancel the rally for only the second time in its history – a move which would have cost the organisers £1.55m and wiped the event from the calendar.
A cold front arrived just in time to save the Karlstad-based event and a week of hard work from the organisers was rewarded with a calendar slot until 2019.
“A week ago, this event was more dead than alive,” said Rally Sweden boss Glen Olsson. “I couldn’t see any future for the event. Now we have managed to put on an amazing event and it is an incredible feeling to be able to confirm we have agreed on a new three-year deal.
“What we had to find was an economic deal which both us and WRC Promoter could live with. We needed to find a ladder so we didn’t walk right into a wall with money, we have done that with a development every year paying more and more. This is a level we can survive on; it’s going to be a challenge, but we can live with this. The promoter likes us, they want us on the calendar.”
Full of praise for the job Olsson and his colleagues have done, the WRC teams, however, are keen to see the event moving north in Sweden. Citroen’s Yves Matton
said: “For sure
Volkswagen will not be able to identify the issue which cost JariMatti Latvala his chance to fight for victory on last week’s Rally Sweden.
The front-left driveshaft on the Finn’s works Polo broke just over a mile from the end of the opening stage. After struggling through Friday in rear-wheel drive he was forced out with suspension failure. His worst start to the season compares starkly with teammate Sebastien Ogier, who sits at the top of the table with a perfect 56 points: two rally wins, two powerstage bests.
To compound the Finn’s misery, the absence of broken parts means VW can’t determine what went wrong for Latvala.
The German squad’s team principal Jost Capito said: “We felt very bad, they had a technical failure on the car. This was something we didn’t have happen before. We don’t know what it was or why it happened and now, because the parts are all gone, we will never know. The connection for the driveshaft broke and the parts came off. We will check the materials of the others to have a look and see if we can find anything, but we are confident it won’t happen again.”
On Latvala’s tough start to the year, Capito added: “We felt really sad for him. He did not have a good start in Monte Carlo and then here it has been bad for him as well. The good thing is that he came back with good speed and now he’s in a good position on the road and looking forward to Mexico. For sure he will challenge for victory there.”
Latvala admitted his place on the road in Guanajuato was the only positive to come from the weekend in Sweden.
“The only chance I have is with the road position,” he said. “I need to keep cool now, I need to concentrate on my job and trust the speed that I have. I think this will be enough. On this rally I think I would have been able to challenge Seb.”
Latvala admitted the fact that he didn’t make a mistake helped him cope psychologically: “It does make it easier to know that I haven’t done anything wrong. There was nothing I could have done; the car broke and the car was always going to break.”